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Paintings of You

A 200-page manga-sized graphic novel, Iris Print, 2007.
Buy on Amazon.

Category: slice-of-life.

Author(s): Mia Paluzzi, Chrissy Delk.
Website: Iris Print's site.

Claude and Ben

In this romance set among college-age guys, published in a manga-sized book by Iris Print, a new publisher dedicated to yaoi/boy's love, writer Mia Paluzzi has created engaging characters, full of life, but not devoid of flaws, and managed to cleverly play with the genre clichés. After all, this is not a matter of "will they or won't they?", but rather of "when will they?" and "how will they overcome the many obstacles on their path?". And obstacles come aplenty.
Claude is a shy young painter, already celebrated for his realistic paintings. His roommate at his new university is an out (out loud) interior design student named Hero Dantes (where did the writer get that name...), whose actor boyfriend, conservately named John Winters, is more energized than Superman during a solar flare, if you'll pardon the super-hero reference. During an art show, Claude meets Ben, another young artist, and promptly manages to antagonize him by stating his contempt for photography, which shouldn't be seen as an art, in his opinion. Of course, for someone who does photo-realistic art, that sounds suspiciously disingenuous. And not the best way to make a new friend who might become something more, since Ben is a photographer.

The whole story is thus the chronicle of the mishaps which prevent Claude and Ben from 1/realising they really like each other and 2/finding a way to declare their feelings to each other. Done in a rather believable and funny sequence of events, it integrates the romance aspect of the story into a larger whole, with well-rounded main characters (especially Claude, who goes through something of an existential crisis during the course of the book). The secondary characters are always important in a good story, and all here are well sketched and given a few moments to shine and retain their dignity, even John, who's basically a clown, but a clown we laugh with, not against. As is often the case in romances, those characters seem mostly here to help (or hinder) the rapprochement (after a cold war period) between Claude and Ben. But even then, John, Hero or Bea (Ben's best friend, whom the other two think at first that Claude is enamored with) are shown to have their own lives and loves--one rather ironic consequence of the boy-on-boy theme is that, for once, the straight romance is in the background and treated the way the gay romance is usually depicted in mainstream fiction.

Artist Chrissy Delk has an interesting style: the storytelling obviously owes much to manga, but the line art seems to me to be a blend of Western and Japanese styles. Although there are a few instances of faces with some weird deformations, the art is mostly easy to read and works very well with the breezy, light and full of humor tone of the writing. That, and she draws some really cute guys who don't look like fashion models nor like the androgynous ephebes often found in straightforward yaoi manga. In fact, the character I think is the cutest is straight. Woe is me.

Paintings of You is a charming romance, with some interesting thoughts about art and its importance. And it is probably one of the few instances of a boy's love comic which can equally be liked by straight female readers and by gay male ones.

John, Hero and Beatrice, with the straight but cute Nick
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