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Grand Passion #3 once again lives up to its title in how it takes the “Passion” part of itself seriously and honestly. Writer James Robinson and artist Tom Feister have constructed a story that wants to evoke the earnest and grand romance of star-crossed lovers destined to be together despite all obstacles, even as it doesn’t forget to retain the gritty and dark aspects of its crime-thriller setting. The result is an issue that is a sexy and stylish crime-romance for grown-ups.
When we last left Mac, he had been cold-cocked by Mabel, the thief who had vowed to kill him even as she fell head over heels for Mac at first sight. This issue takes place just after Mac awakens and finds himself handcuffed to a bed, facing the woman he can’t stop thinking about who has pledged to kill him after he shot and killed her partner during a robbery. Meanwhile, Mac’s fellow officers in the sheriff’s department are preparing to kill Mac themselves in order to cover up their corruption. From there, things take an unexpected turn as Mac and Mabel give in to their mutual attraction.
For a lot of so-called “romance” stories, particularly the grandly idealized love-at-first-sight kind, sex and lust can be pretty divorced from the proceedings. The more carnal attractions tend to lurk in the subtext, behind furtive glances and clever lines, and the story often fades out after the initial kiss to turn away from the consummation of the love. It’s almost as if looking at and admitting the sexual side of love would cheapen the romance itself. Overt and explicit sexuality was the purview of Harlequin romances designed to sate lust, not the purview of “legitimate” romances of the Jane Austen type designed to elevate love.
But Robinson and Feister successfully tell both a heightened romance story that is very clear on the fact that, despite our cynical modern reservations, Mac and Mabel are in actual love. And yet, they are honest and up front about the fact that sex and lust are a vital and real part of falling in love. The issue doesn’t try to shy away from, or gussy up, the fact that Mac and Mabel really want to get down to business, and the issue is sexy and adult (in the best sense in that it shows two adults frankly getting it on). In that way, they thread the very tricky needle of telling a story that has plenty of “Passion” but enough emotional connection to keep things “Grand.”
The art of Grand Passion #3 works to support this by using atmosphere, suggestion and mood to keep the sex scenes artistic without losing the explicit quality that gives them their punch. I’m not sure I’d call these scenes realistic per se, but they are effective in that they take the heightened connection of romance stories and apply real-world sexuality to them. And seeing as how readers need to buy that these two people, ostensibly complete strangers really, are going to forge a connection strong enough to survive the chaos of the plot, it helps to actually see their connection laid out explicitly. That keeps the scenes from being nothing other than titillation, not that there’s anything wrong with titillation. The action is cross-cut with scenes of the corrupt cops gearing up to hit Mac, and these scenes are depicted with a greater sense of stark reality, devoid of the sensuous mood of the Mac/Mabel scenes.
If you can get behind the tone and style of Grand Passion #3 and the series as whole, then there’s refreshing adult feel to the book. It’s an issue that avoids what could have been the mid-series doldrums by deepening the connection between the protagonists, which will create a foundation to hang the coming climax of the series upon. 8.5/10
Grand Passion #3 will be released tomorrow, January 18, 2017