Comic Book Review: Bingo Love by Tee Franklin, Jenn St. Onge, and Joy San

BingoLoveCoverArtGrab a box of tissues because this story will make you feel all the feels!  Bingo Love, written by Tee Franklin, illustrated by Jenn St-Onge, and colored by Joy San, is a beautiful story that tells the love story that spans a life time.

Take a trip through time with Hazel Johnson and Mari McCray as they fall in love at church bingo in 1963, break up because of pressure from their families, and reunite nearly fifty years later!

The brief summary on the back of this comic, more or less, tells you the entire plot.  We are introduced to Hazel and Mari as they meet each other in school and then experience their life together (and apart) and watch their love story unfold and develop.  The comic, however, is so much more than the simple summary on the back of its colorful pages.  Without spoiling anything, I will say that the framing in which the story is told is absolutely beautiful and will touch your heart (and tear ducts)!

What I liked most about Bingo Love is that it is a book written for and created by women.  It is a story focusing on the love between two women of color who reconnect in their sixties.  The comic has a very few white people (the only white people are seen in their school and the only one with lines is the teacher who introduces Mari to the class).  The women have curves, stretch marks, unkempt hair, and are portrayed as real-life women – not some over-sexualized or stereotyped portrayal as some comics often do with their female characters.

While we’re comparing this comic to other comics or queer media out there, I’d like to give an extra thumbs up to this comic by developing the relationship between Hazel and Mari.  Even though Bingo Love’s story reads quickly, there is a lot that is set up that gives the reader hints as to what happens in the decades that the story covers.  Hazel and Mari know each other for over three years before they admit their feelings to each other, and by that point the narrative has already reinforced the time setting and makes them being torn apart all the more believable.

And did I mention that it is a story about two women of color and a bulk of the story takes place when they are in their sixties and seventies?  I know I did but it is important and wanted to mention it again.  So often in queer media we’re given stories of younger people, often in their late teens or twenties, fumbling through life and stumbling in love.  So rarely are we allowed to see people in the latter half of their life falling in love, being intimate, feeling sexy and happy.  It is so important that we see these stories!  Queer youth (and adults, too) need to see that their queer experience won’t end after a certain age or period of their life.  That you can be happy and queer even when you’re old, sore, and gray.

There are only two things that I disliked about this comic.  The first thing being when the comic told me to read a different published comic to get the full story, like this:

BingoLoveDislike.jpg
Text Reads: *Find out what James was hiding in Bingo Love: Secrets written by Shawn Pryor, a Digital Release. –ED.

If it is pertinent to the story, please just include it; or at the end of the book, plug the other comics and stories there.  Including “find out more here” within the text made me feel like it was a grab at self-promotion.  I, as a content creator, understand that we all need our content promoted so that it will reach more people.  Promoting those other works and withholding things from readers when it is directly affecting the story they’re reading, however, really takes your reader out of the story and can ruin the tension that has been building up until that point.  Additionally, by leaving the specific stories out that they did, it made scenes feel rushed and not well thought out.  I as a reader did not feel the full emotional weight of the scene that I took this above picture from because I wasn’t given the opportunity to in the moment.

The second thing that I disliked I’ve put at the very end, as it contains spoilers and I don’t want to ruin the story for anyone.

Overall, I love this comic and would recommend everyone read it.  The narrative is framed in a way that adds an extra emotional layer to the story, it has beautiful illustrations, celebrates people of color and women, and it is a love story between two women who are in the latter half of life!  It is original and thoughtfully crafted.

Go read it already.

Rating4.5 rainbows
4.5 out of 5 Rainbows

Recommended Reader: You. Yes, you. You need to read this. Don’t forget your box of tissues.

You can find more from the creators at their websites and twitter!

Tee Franklin: website & twitter

Jenn St-Onge: website & twitter

Joy San: website & twitter

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The second thing that I didn’t like is something that I personally am struggling with even calling a dislike at this point, simply because of how it helped wrap up the entire story.  The comic spans pretty much the lifetime of these two women after they meet in school and it ends with both of them passing away in their sleep.  The way that it narratively happened was beautiful and made me feel all the teary feels and I felt that it wrapped up the story wonderfully while also showing the reader that it is still a happy-ever-after as they greeted each other in, presumably, heaven on the final page of the comic.  What bothered me about it is that it is yet another queer story ending in the death of queer characters.  Yes – they died in love and of old age and no one was murdered.  And yes, it was a beautiful ending.  But something just doesn’t sit right with me that this story I love so much still had queer individuals die in it.  I wanted it to end with them wrinkled and gray and in love, playing a round of bingo.  Although the ending doesn’t sit well with me, I still love the story and encourage everyone to read it.

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