Many queer romance stories can be pretty linear. Boy meets boy. Girl meets girl. They struggle with being outed or coming out. By the end of the story, they either die horrible deaths or they find a way to live happily in young love. There is also the fact that most of these characters tend to be white. Queer romance has been in dire need of something fresh and inclusive and that's where the graphic novel Bingo Love comes in.
Created and written by Tee Franklin, Bingo Love tells the love story of two Black queer women named Hazel Johnson and Mari McCray. After meeting at church bingo in 1963, they fall in love, but are forced apart by their families. Fifty years later, Hazel and Mari reunite at another bingo game and get another chance at love and happiness.
While the storyline isn't the only poignant aspect of Bingo Love, it is certainly the most striking aspect of the book. Popular queer media like The L Word or Queer as Folk tend to have queer couples frozen in their youth, as if being young and queer is the end all, be all. By showing the passage of time and allowing Hazel and Mari to age, the story wonderfully demonstrates that love can literally last a lifetime.
In less than a hundred pages, the storyline manages to smash quite a few tropes associated with queer people. The most notable is the subversion of the Bury Your Gays trope, which has taken a lot of queer women characters in recent years.
Another refreshing aspect is how Hazel is unabashedly loved by Mari. As explained by @FangirlJeanne on Twitter, dark-skinned queer women of color are all too often portrayed and interpreted as "the man" rather than another woman being loved and desired. Having a dark-skinned, plus-sized, femme Black woman like Hazel is a middle finger to this, as well as the exclusionary "no fats, no femmes" motto.
Hazel and Mari's romance is especially powerful when you see how bigotry and the ideal of the traditional family cost them years of personal happiness. Tee Franklin gives an unflinching look at how Black queer people sometimes have to stifle their queerness to survive and how that affects Hazel, Mari, and their loved ones. Hazel's emotional breakthrough that validates her feelings for Mari will make you teary-eyed.
Even though the book does have some harrowing moments, it never overshadows Hazel and Mari's romance. Their love permeates the book with sugary sweetness, making the story one of happiness rather than struggle. There is a lot of kissing, but also syrupy moments like Hazel describing Mari as "a tall, beautiful, honey glazed goddess" and Mari surprising Hazel with food and a foot rub.
Their romance is gorgeously illustrated by artist Jenn St. Onge and colorist Joy San. Jenn St. Onge's rendering of Mari and Hazel recalls the Archie comics of the 90's and 2000's, while Joy San's use of vibrant colors on the characters, panels, and pages is cute and dazzling.
As a whole, Bingo Love is a swoon-worthy, groundbreaking romance that shows queer people that it is never too late to be in love. Amazing storytelling and delightful artwork dismantles tropes and shows that love literally ages well. Whether you are queer and Black, queer and elderly, or queer and disabled, love is love and love can lead to true happiness.
Bingo Love will be officially released on February 14, 2018, and is available for pre-order on Amazon now!