I’m a sucker for slice-of-life comics. No capes, no crime, no space aliens or post-apocalyptic wastelands; just good, old-fashioned, real-life stories backed up by heartfelt, emotional, and just plain real story-telling. Good, contemporary slice-of-life comics are pretty few and far between, nowadays, however, and unless you want to cross genres, throwback to decades past, or settle for webcomics, you’re just not going to find too many on comic shop shelves. One I did manage to find was Long Distance, from writer/artist Thomas Zahler released through IDW Publishing, a new series that is exactly the contemporary update the slice-of-life comic genre needs.
Long Distance is the age-old tale of “boy meets girl” with a twist: The boy and girl live 300+ miles from one another. Carter, an ad exec from Columbus, Ohio, and Lee, an honest-to-goodness rocket scientist from Chicago, both stuck at an airport in New York City during a blizzard induced delay, meet each other by the most random of chances, and just hit off. This “love at first sight” romance is pulled off perfectly by Zahler, and nothing feels faked or forced, just fluid and fun, the way a new relationship feels. The character dialogue is simply outstanding, with timely and witty banter expertly delivered in every panel.
Pulling double duty, Zahler’s unique art style was more than passing, but it’s the artist’s design choices and creative nuance that really makes this book stand out. The pencils/inks are a bit cartoonish for my taste, but there’s enough character emotion put forth to make it more than passable, while the true star of the artwork is the coloring. Zahler’s decision to use different monochromatic shades of base colors to represent character location was a brilliant move in a love story that’s all about geographic barriers, and it really helped to sell the overall tone of the story.
Long Distance isn’t just a very well-written and beautifully designed comic book, it’s a relevant and timely one, as well. Zahler marvelously captures the world as it is today, with spot-on pop culture references, perfectly delivered social media posts, and a plot that features a type of relationship that’s becoming more and more widespread than perhaps ever before. Above all, however, Long Distance has heart. It feels real, I care about the characters, and I can’t wait to travel down the road Carter and Lee’s relationship has just now started upon.