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Love is the reason

Available on Amazon.
A 180-page book, Poison Press, 2008.

Category: slice-of-life.

Author(s): Tim Fish.

Aubrey and Chase

When Tim Fish published the big, fat collection of his Cavalcade of Boys comics, he stated that he wouldn't come back to his characters. I'm happy to see that he's half changed his mind with this new book, which follows the life of four gay characters, including Tighe from CoB.
Some of the pages in this book were first published in weekly instalments in gay newspapers, but here we get about 50% new material, for a very coherent whole. Love is the reason does feel different from CoB, with its emphasis on the personal history of each new character. CoB was a series of vignettes, whereas Love is more like a collection of inter-connected short stories.
The four main characters in these stories, who all know each other one way or another, are Aubrey, Michael, Chase, and Tighe, whom we've known since the days of Strugglers, when he was a student. Each has a well-rounded personality, and some issues to face. But we can trust Fish's fiction to never devolve into a therapy-of-the-week, which means that while Love is the reason is not as bitter (though funny) as CoB often was, happy endings aren't the rule here. In fact, one of the things Fish does best is to provide satisfying open endings.
Aubrey is pathologically opposed to any possibility of a relationship, so much that he refuses to see the same man twice. With that walking cliché in gay fiction, Fish creates a moving portrait of a scarred young man who'll need his friends to help him rebuild his self-confidence.
Michael is bit older, and has lived through the tragedy of losing his lover. He's remade himself into the owner of a successful music lounge, and opens up again little by little. I found that character to be the most engaging, if only because he seems like the least complicated of the four, which is saying something for Fish's characters.
Chase is a money-making hunk, who swears he's better off with no committment, and maybe be is. But when he finally meets a guy who feels more than simple good lay, he finds himself losing his bearings, creating very funny situations.
As for Tighe, his meeting a cute and interesting foreigner brings up all sorts of unexpected feelings, considering his bad luck in relationships.
All those stories are told in a way that constantly feels fresh, sometimes willingly corny but never too much, romantic without being sappy, and funny without belittling the characters.
Tim Fish's art is by now very assured, able to create recognisable faces, offering pages with a real density in the background and a vivid variety of expressions and body language. In a word, it makes the stories believable, and constantly adds to the pleasure of reading. I particularly like the full pages with landscapes that pepper the book, helping it breathe and adding rythm. Rythm is in fact another element that Fish has obviously thought about: the structure of the book, while simple (an introduction for all the characters, and four parts, each focusing on one character), is effective and enables the foreshadowing of story points developped later on. What's more, the presence of some visual and verbal leitmotivs gives an added resonance to the flow of the stories.
Love is the reason is the work of a mature author who's on top form. Here's to the next one, and all the ones after that.

Tighe and Michael
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