Betrothed #1 Review: Romeo and Juliet with Manic Pacing
A high school girl suddenly punches a high school boy. Neither really knows why, but, soon after, the pair embraces in a kiss.
We then get a look into their backgrounds, and it's not what one would expect.
Betrothed really wants you to know that it's Romeo and Juliet allegory. It is maddeningly obsessed with being recognized as a Romeo and Juliet allegory. The two main characters, Kieron and Tamara, refer to themselves as Romeo and Juliet repeatedly in their thought captions. Their backstories, while I won't give them away completely, are very much a Montagues and Capulets parable.
It's genuinely weird how paranoid Betrothed seems about the reader missing the point.
The structure of this one is offbeat too. While it adheres to the en media res that has become common for comic beginnings, it tilts its hand in the first issue. As I said, we are given the origins of Kieron and Tamara in the first issue, and it is the kind of reveal that would at least wait for us to meet the characters fully. In fact, we learn very little about the personality of Kieron and Tamara beyond what the latter's friend tells us about Tamara.
The pacing is breakneck. While many mainstream comics suffer from glacial pacing, Betrothed seems afraid that it will lose you if it doesn't get to the point immediately. This is, unfortunately, to its detriment. You're dragged along for the ride without learning who is going with you or why any of this was perceived as a good idea in the first place.
What it does get right, and the pacing does admittedly contribute to this too, is the hormonal impulsiveness of teenagers. I was there about five years ago now. I do remember it. You feel strangely, and you don't understand way. Betrothed gets it and plays with the idea in some clever ways.
Steve Uy's artwork has a youthful aesthetic and energy to it. It's heavily inspired by manga art, and that does fit the story, which has taken some notes from manga too. The color art is bright and lively too. The visual identity of the comic is well-suited for the story it's trying to tell.
Betrothed #1 is a manic and fast-flowing book with some ideas it really wants to tell you, but it doesn't seem to know what to do with them or what they mean. That sounds horribly patronizing, I know. It has some clever aspects; it really understands teenagers even if it doesn't show us its characters in any detail yet. I'm not sure I can recommend this issue. It's not very good. However, this is a series that may be worthy of watching in the long run. I'll check back in with issue two for you guys.