Husbands by Jane Espenson, Brad Bell, & Others

Books Reviews Jane Espenson
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Husbands by Jane Espenson, Brad Bell, & Others

Writers: Jane Espenson and Brad Bell
Artists: Ron Chan, Natalie Nourigat, M.S. Corley, Ben Dewey, and Tania del Rio
Publisher: Dark Horse
Release Date: March 27, 2013

Dark Horse’s marketing department clearly pays close attention to the Supreme Court docket, which is addressing two landmark cases in marriage equality this week. Hence, one can assume, the release of Husbands, a hardback collection of the web comics based on the web series about two men in a young relationship who wake up the morning after same-sex marriage is legalized to realize they accidentally (and drunkenly) wed the evening prior. The pair decides to stay together for the sake of the cause, figuring a quickie annulment would reinforce negative gay stereotypes. It’s a classic opposites-attract newlywed comedy, drawing on surprise and delight rather than the bitter entrenched-espousal sitcom template.

The series has succeeded madly, due to its short run times, many cameos (Joss Whedon, Nathan Fillion, Felicia Day, etc.), and snappy writing. Two out of three of these qualities also translate to the comic, which show creators Brad Bell and Jane Espenson also write. It helps to have seen the series to understand some of the jokes, which can rely on character familiarity: Brady is a professional baseball player who could pass for straight and Cheeks is a pixie devoted to embodying effeminate stereotypes to make others uncomfortable. Their culture clash, as well as the usual difficulties of an infant relationship, makes for fertile comedic ground.

These six stories, loosely tied together through the device of a magical book that spirits our protagonists into various genre fictions (early superhero, kings and castles, Victorian mystery, space opera, Archie comics, and secret agent), allow Brady and Cheeks to learn a few lessons about compromise and togetherness, which seem to be a large part of the show, too. Using different artists for different stories allows each chapter its own flavor, and the jokes about genre (Archie’s general incomprehensibility, Sherlock Holmes’s over-narration) land well. Moments of sweetness dot the narrative, but events can wrap up a little too neatly without the opportunity to investigate greater depths. The show thrives because it’s sunny and zippy but not without thoughtfulness. The comic doesn’t allow quite as much of the latter, but it’s not a bad addition to this new little ‘verse Espenson and Bell are building.

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