Love in the Time of Dating Apps

Virtually Yours

Written by Jeremy Holt, art and colors by Elizabeth Beals, lettering by Adam Wollet

Published by Dark Horse for Comixology

The concept behind the app Virtually Yours is actually kinda genius. Do you want to appear to be in a relationship in order to get your parents and friends off your back? With Virtually Yours, you can hire someone to pretend to be your real boyfriend/girlfriend. No awkward first dates, no cringey speed dating, just a fake relationship to post about on Instagram along with some thoughtful Edible Arrangements to make your coworkers jealous.

Because this is a romantic comedy, it's clear early on that the two main characters are going to get together. So Holt’s job is not to pen a story with twists and turns but instead to make us care about the characters and about their hopes and dreams. Max in particular represents a character archetype that I rarely see in comics or romances. He’s a Black man who was a successful child actor and he loves comics. He’s in the middle of a divorce. In some very brief flashbacks, we see that his ex-wife was physically abusive to him. It’s rare to see a heterosexual marriage depicted where the husband is the one who is physical abused, but it does happen and it is never okay. I think it is crucial to show that these things can happen to men too, and that it is not something to joke about. 

The art and colors by Elizabeth Beals are clean, stylish, and detailed. Often artists will default to two or three body types, even in stories that take place in major metropolitan areas, which make crowd scenes offputtingly homogenous. Beals instead features many different ethnicities, body types, hair styles, and wardrobes. Her interiors in particular remind me of watching house hunting shows on HGTV, but in a good way. She moves effortlessly from a Brooklyn brownstone to a Manhattan start up to a beloved indie comic shop, and each place feels fully realized. I especially appreciated the internet startup vibes of Virtually Yours. Not only does it have its own smoothie bar, it also comes complete with tiny, phone-booth sized, sealed work pods that make the average Office Space-type cubicle look cavernous. Beals also nails the architectural feel of the different New York neighborhoods. I would guess that either Beals or Holt is an avid coffee fan as cups of coffee and pour over brew are lovingly rendered on many panels. And there are also fun Easter eggs of pop culture references (including Good Omens' Crowley and Aziraphale having dinner together at a fancy restaurant) to be spotted throughout.

You don’t have to be into romance novels or romantic comedies to enjoy Virtually Yours. If you like character-driven stories about realistic, fun people, then I think you’ll like Virtually Yours.