Writer: Jeremy Holt
Artist: Elizabeth Beals
Letterer: Adam Wollet
Designer: Tim Daniel
Publisher: Comixology Originals
Online dating has become normalized over the past decade and incredibly popular lately, no doubt, due to current events and stay-at-home mandates. However, what about online non-dating? That is, virtually fake dating someone so that people (a.k.a. usually family) stop nagging you about finding that perfect someone. This is precisely what unfolds in Virtually Yours.
Max, a former child star, is always on the lookout for a new gig, like, most recently, being hired by the company Virtually Yours to work as a virtual romantic (non-romantic?) partner. Max is in an abusive marriage IRL that is on the verge of ending, and yet he manages to become the “Internet’s greatest spouse,” attracting so many clients that his employer has to take him off the market at the moment.
One of his clients is Eva, a college graduate who has spent the last six months living at home with her parents as she tries to find a job. Fortunately, her little sister signs her up for the Virtually Yours non-dating app at the same time she gets hired to cover dating as a freelance journalist. Her column “My Dates with (Virtual) Reality” is an instant hit. As Eva and Max, Andy and Adam respectively, begin to connect AFRL, they also, unbeknownst to them, begin to connect IRL. And yes, as these things go, it gets complicated.
Virtually Yours is a 110% enjoyable read. The dialogue is believable, the characters are likeable, and it moves along at a perfect pace. It’s got enough humor to keep it light, but it also doesn’t shy away from asking some of the tough questions about relationships: what’s worth holding onto and what’s worth letting go. Additionally, like the best works in the cyberpunk genre, it touches on interesting questions about virtual performances and avatar selections as Max, who is Black, performs as a generic white dude named Adam. Furthermore, the story doesn’t belittle or devalue online relationships, instead demonstrating that they can be very emotionally real and important.
On par with Jeremy Holt’s dynamic writing, Elizabeth Beals’s art is fantastic. The soft linework and colors are inviting, and the characters are very expressive. I’m also just a sucker for well-placed wordless panels, and this book is full of them. One part I especially appreciate is how the art doesn’t rush the in-between moments, like those ostensibly short but forever-long minutes between putting a bagel in the toaster to taking it out. Likewise, not to be biased or anything, but as someone who lives near Savannah, Georgia, Beals does a great job capturing the spirit of the place, Southern Live Oaks and all. Adam Wollet’s letters are beautifully done, as well — blending in perfectly with Beals’s panels, helping to produce a thoughtfully laid out book.
Finally, there are so, so many good cameos in Virtually Yours that literally had me smiling/squealing with delight. I’m not going to give anything away here, because you definitely need to experience the joy that comes from the surprise like I did.