Series Review Issues #1-4
EDITORS NOTE: It’s been a while since I’ve written a full on series review of anything. Whether that be a TV Show on DVD or a comic trade paperback. Long Distance will be collected eventually, but I HAD to write this review of the 4 issue miniseries before that happened. I just couldn’t wait for the trade! Also the first three issues are $1.99 in Comixology, and Issue #4 is $4.99. You might balk at that price for a digital comic, but it’s so worth it! You can get LONG DISTANCE HERE <— or in print.
“From the creator of Love and Capes, Thom Zahler! While stranded in an airport, Carter and Lee meet and hit it off immediately. Problem is, he lives in Columbus and she lives in Chicago. Can they manage to have a relationship separated by three hundred miles, a time zone, and the entire state of Indiana?” Here’s my review of Long Distance from Thomas Zahler and IDW Publishing!
Labor Day Weekend 2015…. I’m not sure how I found it, but I’ve fallen in love with IDW Publishing’s Long Distance created by Thomas F. Zahler! This is a four issue miniseries, sadly at first I thought it was an ongoing. However the overall story Thom tells in these four issues are just so wonderfully refreshing in reading comics today. As someone who was once in a Long Distance relationship, I think that was another reason why I was drawn to this series. After reading this series… for some strange reason I thought it was like an Office Space-Chasing Amy mash-up. I’m not saying that in a bad way at all. In this review I’m going to give you all my thoughts for each issue. As Thomas Zahler is both Writer and Artist, I didn’t see the need to break up my thoughts, as I do in most of my reviews. So make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright positions. As we take off for Long Distance!
Right away when I first started reading this series, what I noticed were the COLORS!!!! So many colors. Zahler’s backgrounds and color coded choices are amazing!! In a comic like this… I have never in my 4 years of reading comics full-time seen such great use of color. I can’t compare this to any comic I have read in that time or any I’m currently reading. That is why this series is so refreshing to me! We open with Carter Blue in the NYC airport, ready to go back to Columbus Ohio. All of a sudden BatKid knocks him over…..I love the references Thomas Zahler puts in here!! The way we meet Carter is cool, because he’s running late to the gate. All I can hear in my head when I read the opening scene here is Chuck Barry’s RUN RUN RUDOLPH, which as we all know was used in Home Alone. So Carter Blue and Lee Smith meet, and they hit it off immediately. Apparently the Blizzard of 78 decided to return to New York City, and snow in all the flights West. my favorite part about this first issue is all the PURPLE colors!!! Zahler’s drawings of the characters are well put together, and the way he mixes in the purple with white on everything is spectacular. After the flight delays end, it’s 3AM in Columbus, and Carter calls his best friend and business partner Tim. I love the interactions between these friends. Dreamy Kreme Donuts and the HOT NOW light is on… that gave me a chuckle. You know a comic is gonna be great when the writer can get in a Krispy Creme reference! As Carter recounts his meeting Lee to Tim….. we find out the name of the song that Carter heard while kissing Lee. It was Lifehouse’s Hanging By a Moment. <—- WOW it takes real balls to put a Lifehouse reference in a comic. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them ever referenced in a comic book before.
After Carter and Tim call it a night, we get to see Lee returning to her dungeon of an office in Chicago. She tells her co-worker and friend Stephanie all about Carter and their airport adventure. Zahler’s dialogue is stunningly well put together. There’s humor with sarcasm, and the writing is just off the wall crazy good. As the issue progresses we get more on Carter’s end, and we see him at his office. There’s a line that Zahler uses with the two co workers… that I swear he’s referencing Spider-Man from 2002. “mom and dad are fighting again” Spidey said something along the same lines to Gobby in the film. I might be reading too much into this, but you get the idea. Lee gets home after sitting in traffic for too long, and we meet her Gram. I just love the relationship with these two. It is very fun and snarky. As Carter and Lee have their phone call date….. Zahler writes the dialogue almost effortlessly. The way Thom throws references around and still makes them fit… it almost seems as if he wants the entire conversation to be quips. I don’t think that’d be a bad thing, but the conversational skills of both Lee and Carter make long distance relationships look easy. As the comic continues we get more conversation between Carter, Lee, and their best friends Tim and Stephanie. I am enjoying the way Zahler brings up the fact that Carter flying out to Chicago is just a bit crazy for a first date. He also brings up how Lee is a little scared. If you pick this up, and can’t see how well it’s written… then you need your eyes checked. Because not only does Thom Zahler write the fun stuff well, the serious stuff is even more awesome. What I’m wondering as I’m reading this is…… WHERE and WHAT was the inspiration for him creating this series? So as Issue #1 ends we see that Carter and Lee meet at the airport in Chicago. Carter has a great monologue is the only thing I can call it. All about how he believes relationships are. The issue ends with a kiss. OK I’ve now read Issue #1 twice, and it’s just as damn good as it was the first time. I love how Thom uses colors… Green for Carter and Columbus and Orange for Lee and Chicago. I know in future issues there will be other colors that he’ll use. I really appreciate the different colors for different places. Now let’s see what these crazy kids are up to in the next issue.
So Issue #2 picks up right where we left off… With Carter and Lee meeting at the airport in Chicago. The interaction between them is even more fluid in person. I love the page where they are talking about Pizza… Chicago Pizza. Carter mentions Little Nero’s and wow Lee shuts that down immediately. So as their first date continues on… Lee takes Carter to the Field Museum, but before that….. The night before Carter acts as a gentleman… telling Lee he doesn’t wanna speed things up. Man this series is awesome. It’s like a Dating 101 kinda book. Thom Zahler writes these characters as if they’ve known each other all their lives. When something gets awkward or strange, they find a quip or funny line to move on from the strangeness of the conversation. We eventually get to see them at dinner and more stories ensue. Carter tells her that it’s all Jimmy Buffet’s fault he started his own business. As I’m rereading through this, it occurs to me that Thom Zahler’s writing allows for effortless references. As someone who is a reference geek to anything and everything I have ever experienced… I really appreciate that!
“Right like I’d take you to a coffee place that didn’t serve pie.” – Lee The sarcasm in the writing is so refreshing. I will most likely use that word throughout this entire review to express my enjoyment of the series. It’s lines like that… that really make me smile as I’m reading the series. these two are having fun together, finding out everything about each other. All on one very long weekend first date. Then we get to the part every new couple or potential couple dreads. The leaving. I wasn’t sure how Zahler was going to write this part, but he crafts a very positive goodbye. We then get into the “relationship rules”. Where Carter and Lee agree on their communication whether texting, tweeting, calling, whatever it might be. It’s all very sweet to see a relationship blossom… The way theirs is. Then we get the Spanish Inquisition….. no one expects the Spanish Inquisition! Both Tim and Stephanie grill their friends on how the date went. As you can see from the image below… it was perfect. Who knew a relationship could go this well? As I’ve stated in my review of issue #1… Thom Zahler I need to ask this guy where in his life these characters have come from. because after only 2 issues I feel like as the reader….. I’ve known them forever!
So the next step is for Lee to visit Carter in Columbus. Normally in stories like this, I’d half expect something super tragic to happen. A job opportunity lost…. a sick relative, or an unplanned pregnancy something! But Zahler has this impeccable way of writing to the positive, and really showing us the relationship growing.
“WOW I’ve never seen someone leave a them shaped cloud of dust behind.” – Tim So Carter is getting ready to meet Lee in Columbus. They’ll have Fri-Sun to spend all weekend with each other./ Even though this is only the second issue of the series… It really feels like a lot of time has gone by. Even though it’s really only been three weekends, OK well that almost adds up to a month or so. Still at this point in the story, even though it’s only Carter and Lee’s second date… Zahler makes the reader feel as if they’ve been in a relationship for 10 years. Rather than nearly a month. As Lee and Carter start to have a good time… Tim calls, and then everything seemingly should come crashing down. Yet it doesn’t, Tim is on his way to Michigan with his family, and their biggest client sent the entire catalog back for redesigns. Carter is obviously seriously upset about this, as they had given one of their employees Monica a shot to impress the client. The crazy thing is she did nothing wrong, the client just didn’t like the stuff she came up with. You would think that this would ruin Carter and Lee’s time, but it’s exactly the opposite. She understands that something major came up, and that Carter has to get it done. Damn Thom Zahler is killing it on the writing here. As I said this is only their second date really….. and everything seems to work out so well. This series really could be a guide to dating for anyone! So as we continue through the story Carter rebuilds the catalog, and there is a funny exchange between him and Lee about his car. She goes to the store to get stuff for dinner. While there she gets a text or whatever…. that apparently needs more wine. Her flight got changed to an earlier time on the Sunday. So Zahler has written in two setbacks so far, yet these two just make the best of it and move on. As the issue comes to a close Carter and Lee have slept together, but they’ve overslept, and now they are running to catch her flight. That’s how #2 ends. Overall I can’t sing the praises of this series enough. between Carter and Lee’s relationship, and the friendships they have in their lives. Thom Zahler really has crafted a gem of a love story here.
So we begin issue #3 where 2 left off…. A MAD DASH to the airport! So after Carter and Lee part ways for now….. they each return to their friends. With Carter and Tim they have to deal with the Monica situation. If you remember she stepped up at their office, but the client didn’t like what she had done. Now that we are three issues into this miniseries, I really enjoy how Thom paces the story. It’s not moving to fast, and it’s not moving too slow either. As this issue continues Carter and Lee exchange texts about their jobs, and it’s just so FUN to read. It is nice seeing a relationship blossom as theirs has. Just like Zahler’s pacing of the stories… the characters aren’t moving too slow or too fast.. it is just right. This is the pont in the story where Lee leaves Carter alone with her Gram….and the two of them hit it off as well. Gram even jokes back when Cater says something about her killing him if he treats Lee badly. Gram just fires right back that she’d hire someone to do it. The way this story is structured it’s just so engrossing!!! I get a laugh out of every three or four pages. Reading Zahler’s Long Distance is kinda like reading Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. So many good jokes, and references that make me chuckle. Who knew he’d ever put a Of Mice & Men reference in here!
“We didn’t think to get a corkscrew… or wine with a screw off top.” says Carter… “Screw off top? Savage.” says Lee! I’m not sure how much more I can say about this series and how good it is. So as Lee’s trip to Columbus continues she meets Tim and Lisa, as well as their hurricane of a kid. Then she and Carter talk about kids in the car, after that they have a quiet moment… Before returning to reality. with Lee’s reality that includes her friend Stephanie telling her about what’s going on in her life. As Lee and Stephanie are catching up, Lee realizes Carter hasn’t texted her yet. It turns out he has a Vulcan Death Cold…. no one expects the Vulcan Death Cold! As Carter gets better from lee sending him soup by proxy… she gets some interesting news from her boss. He’s sending her to Las Vegas in his stead, because they have a presentation to make, but he has a conflicting event. This means we see Carter and Lee in Las Vegas. A fun time for them, and a great adventure. Lee meets Dr. Navi Gownde… which has a potential future job for her. Carter and Lee have an amazing “real” date night, and it’s at this point that they confess their love for one another. There are fireworks and everything. It has occurred to me I have ye to talk about Zahler’s art here. His colors are spot on and I really enjoy seeing how he has them blend into each other when Carter and Lee’s worlds meet up. The whole yellow of Las Vegas is amazing!!! As the issue progresses we see Carter and Lee texting all the time, and he even starts texting with her Gram about a show that they are watching. As the issue comes to a close Lee gets some bad news about the job Stephanie would have had for her the following year. Overall issue #3 was just as great as the first 2. Zahler’s character depths are deep, but light and funny. We even start to see the bad parts about being in a long distance relationship.
As of this review Issue #4 has only been out for 2 days. So I am NOT going to SPOIL the series ending for you. What I will say is Zahler and his references are totally on point here. Gram makes a Who Wants to Be A millionaire joke, and he even gets in the words Baconniption Fit Pizza. That’s just funny right there!!! So as we begin this issue we pick up with Lee still being upset, and Gram trying to cheer her up. There’s a knock at the door… and Carter has appeared. He drove out to be with her… in her time of emotional need. This couple is just written so well. When Zahler sends them down one dark tunnel either of them always have just the right answer to help the other one out. As the story progresses we see that the distance becomes a huge issue. I mean it had to eventually right? Zahler writes these conflicts so well. He creates and somehow solves conflict so easily. It’s no wonder I want more issues of this series. We find out that Stephanie.. Lee’s friend last issue was worried about her Girlfriend Janice being awkward. Well it turns out that Janice was just trying to figure out how to ask Stephanie to marry her. Naturally Carter and Lee need a date for the wedding. So that is set up, and the distance thing comes into play. Carter and Lee end up having a bunch of awkward moments, and things just aren’t the way they used to be…
In Columbus after the night of awkwardness, Carter tells Tim about it, and then they announce what’s going to happen with the business. After which we get back to Chicago and Carter finally see’s Lee’s sub-basement office! At this point in the story another major negative thing happens, Lee finds out her Gram is in the hospital. Everything turns out to be fine, but it gets Lee and Carter both thinking. Meanwhile Gram makes Carter promise her that he’ll give Lee the push she’ll need soon. Carter gets back to Columbus, and he and Tim have a chat. An all night chat. This is about the point I wanna stop recapping the issue for you. Because after this is where all the interesting things happen. You definitely wanna give this series a try!!! Zahler’s art just gets better and better. With a comic like this the colors are most definitely key…. and Zahler really kills it on all fronts. We then get to the closing moments of the series, and they are exceptionally written. A natural evolution to what the entire series has been about!!!
I’m so very glad I found this series! It really put a few things into perspective for me in my life. Both past and present. Thom Zahler’s Long Distance series shows us that LDRs can work, but they will take a toll on the couple. At the same time if they love each other enough they can make anything work. I highly recommend that you check this series out!