Review by Frank Plowright
For story purposes New Romancer is the struggling online dating agency that currently employs Lex Ryan, first rate programmer whose time at vast corporation Incubator Inc ended when she stole some coding. Her talents come from experiments performed on her since childhood by her father, who’s currently serving time for what the courts considered abuse. The coding she stole was experimental, a key part of a major piece of unfettered corporate research into reviving the dead for unspecified purposes. When Lex activates the code connected to faux profiles she’s created for history’s great romantics all kinds of jiggery pokery is let loose that pulls the spirit of great poet Byron’s from his 1824 deathbed to reanimate a corpse. He’s not the only historical personage restored in this comedy romp.
Peter Milligan realises the premise far outweighs the technicalities, which are nonsense, so works with Byron in the 21st century as soon as possible. A libertine in his era, even he’s surprised by how attitudes to sex have progressed over the centuries. Milligan employs a nice contrast, with Lex a romantic who at 24 has never had a relationship, so is more attuned to older ideals and obsessed with her image of Byron. While Lex is sympathetic, Milligan doesn’t take anything else seriously, his Byron a poetry quoting fop whose centuries old seductive lines repeatedly fall flat, and other historical characters more malign now they’re returned to life.
There’s something of Philip Bond to Brett Parson’s art, a seductive form of cartooning strong on emotional release, clean and appealing. There’s a natural sense of what needs to be emphasised on the page, and he nails the required comedic tone, with the occasional reminder that if illustrated differently, New Romancer could almost work as a horror thriller.
While looking to the higher ideals of history’s greatest lovers, Milligan employs bathos by his tone having more in common with bawdy restoration comedies. He’s clever enough to ensure smart lines and farcical situations, but how much better would New Romancer have been if he’d actually tried to get to grips with the central question of whether romance can really survive in an age of cynicism? What we have is slick and funny in places, but ultimately lacks passion.