Saturday, August 25, 2018

Book-A-Day 2018 #237: Ares & Aphrodite: Love Wars by Jamie S. Rich and Megan Levens

It can be hard to praise things for being small without sounding condescending.

Oh, what a quaint house!

Aren't you a darling little man!

What an adorable book!

I'm going to try to avoid that pitfall today. But what I like best about this graphic novel by writer Jamie S. Rich and artist Megan Levens is that it's not trying to do too much. Ares & Aphrodite tells the story of one couple -- well, one potential couple -- and how they got together, if, eventually, they do get together enough for that to be a story.

In a world of comics that seem to want to be widescreen media-spanning epics, Ares & Aphrodite aspires to be a really good small movie, the kind made for a TV channel that churlish men avoid or that plays in that one theater two towns over. It's about two people, their professional connection, and a low-stakes bet they make with each other.

Will Ares is the top divorce lawyer in town. Gigi Averelle runs Aphrodite's, the most exclusive wedding-planning service in town. "Town," in this case, is Los Angeles, which would normally mean both of these two are massively important, with egos to match -- but they're both awfully normal and down-to-earth. Both seem to be somewhere in their thirties: old enough to have succeeded, old enough to want something better, young enough to still have time ahead of them.

Evans Beatty is Ares's current big client -- and has been several times in the past. He's a big Hollywood producer, currently disentangling himself from a writer to marry Carrie Cartwright, the currently hot teen-queen actress. (Evans looks to have a good three decades on Carrie, but Ares & Aphrodite does its best to ignore that and focus on their individual personal issues. I thought that was fine; others may find it harder to ignore.)

Evans is Will's client; Carrie is Gigi's. So they're currently running into each other a lot. Will asked Gigi to go on a date with him -- she shot him down. So he proposed a bet: if Evans and Carrie do get married, she'll go out with him. And Gigi accepts.

That's the central thread of the plot -- one lawyer, one wedding planner, one too impetuous aging producer, one not-as-sweet-as-she-seems ingenue, and a few friends and hangers-on. It ends at the big wedding, at a mansion by the sea. And their bet is decided there.

They don't battle ninjas; they don't even save a movie from ruin. They're people living their lives and doing their jobs -- and those jobs are mostly giving honest, professional advice, to help their clients achieve what they want in the best way possible.

It's a sweet story, no bigger than it has to be, courtesy of Rich. Levens makes the art equally clean and transparent, like we're looking through a window into these people's lives, and this is how they must look at any moment.

Ares & Aphrodite is small -- but, as the old saying goes, it's also perfectly formed. We can always use more stories like that.

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