A Thing Called Truth is a road trip story with a few bumps in the road, but the queer romance at the heart of the book makes up for many of the comic’s hiccups. Writer and letterer Iolanda Zanfardino and artist Elisa Romboli, both of whom share cover duties, craft a charming love story between two opposites with modern anime-style art and classic cinematic references.
Mag is a scientist who just developed technology that could change the world: advanced medical equipment so inexpensive to produce that every hospital in the world could afford it. There’s only one problem: her bosses don’t want to save the world. Not if they can’t turn a hefty profit from it, anyway. So, with years of Mag’s hard work firmly under their control, they deny her access to her lab and tell her never to return. In response, Mag does what a lot of us would do: she gets drunk as hell and passes out in her car. When she wakes up, she’s an unwitting member of a road trip with Dorian, a carefree woman “borrowing” Mag’s car to carry out her late brother’s wishes to reenact famous movie scenes across Europe. The buttoned-up, rigid Mag clashes with the free-spirited Dorian, but as their road trip continues, sparks fly as the women realize how much they can learn from each other.
If you have a bit of whiplash reading that synopsis, I understand completely. I had a bit of whiplash reading the book. A techno-conspiracy thriller turned into a road trip buddy comedy turned into a queer romance is a lot to take in. However, I’m cautiously optimistic that the diverging plots will come together cohesively in the end, even though the characterization is bizarre at times — Mag is fond of yelling about how scientific she is, regardless of whether it’s relevant to the conversation at hand, presumably to remind the reader of the trouble brewing at her former job and the ramifications it holds for the fate of the world. The different storylines feel shoehorned together at times, but Zanfardino and Romboli do a good job of making the central romance so charming that we forgive the book’s faults.
There’s a lot to forgive in A Thing Called Truth, at least from a script perspective. The dialogue is awkward and stilted, reading like a poor translation, and there’s a regrettable instance when a character uses the offensive phrase “faux queen” when Dorian must put on a drag performance to fulfill one of her brother’s wish list items. But I’m a sucker for a chaotic queer love story, and the “opposites attract” friction between Mag and Dorian is delightful. It’s not quite enemies-to-lovers, but it’s certainly ‘irritating road trip partners to lovers,’ which is almost as good.
Romboli’s art does a lot to smooth out the script’s rough edges. There’s a clear anime influence, with charming chibi inserts showing the women’s progress on their road trip. Romboli’s drawings and layouts are dynamic, especially in the travel scenes, and Mag and Dorian’s expressive faces go a long way in selling the evolution of their relationship. My favorite page is a particularly amorous moment at the end of issue five. It’s a swoon-worthy romantic moment straight out of a movie, and that moment alone has me hooked and ready for the next trade.
A Thing Called Truth isn’t without its faults. With two narratives that haven’t quite come together yet and unnatural dialogue, it can be a rocky read, but the endearing love story at the center of the book makes up for any narrative awkwardness. It will be interesting to see how — or if — the story coheres, but Mag and Dorian’s romance has earned enough goodwill to keep traveling on this road trip with them.