Long Distance #1-3 review

Once upon a time, superhero comic books were full of love. When not fighting crime, the likes of Hal Jordan and Tony Stark would be wooing the ladies, and the women would be giving them the runaround. Sometimes heroes and heroines would fall for the villains, adding even more tension to the mix. The romantic shenanigans brought an extra layer of fun to comics, but over time, as secret identities and private lives fell out of favour, the romance went with it. DC publishes a comic book centred on a supposed love match, but Superman/Wonder Woman is basically a team-up book in which the players occasionally make whoopee.

So it's good to have somewhere else to go for a spot of sparky soap, and Thom Zahler, creator of Love and Capes, is filling the gap with mini-series Long Distance. The concept is right there in the title - Lee Smith and Carter Blue meet at an airport and are instantly attracted to one another, but dating won't be easy as she lives in Chicago and he stays in Columbus. But how can they not give it a try?

Zahler, who writes, draws, colours and letters, presents the chemistry between rocket scientist Lee and adman Carter with terrific skill - the dialogue truly zings, while the body language further sells the feelings. The pair are tremendously likeable, and are surrounded by supportive friends and colleagues, with the only sour notes being Lee's overbearing boss and her understandably overprotective grandma.

The opening three issues take in the first few weeks of the relationship, as Lee and Carter bask in the glow of their burgeoning romance, flying back and forth and setting down the rules and routines necessary when two people don't live in the same time zone. This month, in the third of four issues, they risk the L-word and it's fair to say, neither regrets it.

We've also seen how infatuation affects their work lives, and occasional moments of frustration are appreciated because lovely as Lee and Carter are, much as I want them to make things work, three 48pp issues of super-sweetness risks getting a bit cloying. Now Zahler has established how important Carter and Lee are to one another, it's time for Cupid to fire spanners rather than arrows. My favourite scene in #3 sees Carter's partner, Tim, offer something of a reality check...
A framing sequence in Long Distance #1 establishes that the main action is set a few years in the past; Carter mentions that he 'used to be in a long-distance relationship'. So have things not worked out? Or did Lee and Carter wind up in the same city and make babies? The finale this week will hopefully reveal all. 

There's charm by the bucketload in this series, with the excitement, the marvellous possibility of a new relationship emanating from every page. Carter Blue sounds like a cowboy porn star but looks like a cross between Archie Andrews and L'il Abner, an apple pie that walks like a man. He looks good in his environment. I'm less comfortable with the Lee visual - with her Daisy Duck lips she seems more contrived than captured. Plus, while both characters are meant to be late twenties, she comes across as a fair bit older than Carter. Zahler's colouring isn't quite monochromatic, but he does use different shades of a parent hue to signal locale - greens for Columbus, earth tones for Chicago, purples for New York and yellows for Las Vegas, the setting for much of the penultimate issue, as Carter joins Lee at a scientific convention. The approach works well, with the occasional blending of palettes a particular treat.

The lettering is fine for the most part, but every chapter has had a couple of spelling errors - publisher IDW might usefully employ an extra pair of eyes before signing off on each issue.

The relaunch of the flagship Archie series has been drawing attention, with much praise for the romantic stylings of creators Mark Waid and Fiona Staples. If such is your cup of tea, give Long Distance a try - it's easy to love.


  1. Must get. I love(d?) Love & Capes! The monochromatic palettes are interesting.


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