Valentine's Day is just around the corner, and that means that it's time once again for one of the most high-pressure situations in the life of an elementary school student: exchanging Valentines with classmates
. Fortunately for amorous young comic book readers, this year has seen a plethora of super-hero themed choices for when it comes time to express your love.
But are they really all that great? This is, after all, the single most important romantic decision a young person can make, and selecting the wrong valentine can send your love life into a disastrous spiral from which it may never recover. That's why today, I've grabbed a few boxes of this year's crop to figure out the Best and Worst in Super-Hero Valentines
!OPTION ONE: Batman: The Brave and the Bold
As someone who has spent most of his adult life expressing his feelings in terms of how they relate to Batman, I had some pretty high hopes for these. Unfortunately, they just don't measure up. I mean, I'm
the kind of person who can see the simple, beautiful romance in a picture of Batman gritting his teeth hauling off to clock some thug upside the head with a metal boomerang -- something that's featured on a truly surprising number of these cards -- but for most people, it doesn't really have the same feel that you'd get from flowers, candy hearts and all that jazz.
OPTION TWO: The Justice League
Romance: Of the seven designs, five of them feature Batman fighting alongside one of his crime-fighting allies so at least there's at least a hint of getting together with a friend to go do something fun, which in this case means punching out the mentally ill. There's no Catwoman or Black Canary, which seems odd since they'd tend to fit the theme a little better than Batman and Green Arrow, but maybe these are valentines made specifically for slash fiction writers.
Unfortunately, one of the characters that does show up is is Red F***ing Tornado. If the image of your relationship with a potential Valentine is Batman and Red Tornado, you are basically telling them that one of you is awesome and the other is a robot that spends all its time crying over how much it sucks. This one's gonna be a Push.
Creativity: The most infuriating part of the Brave and the Bold Valentines is how lazy they seem. There's no "I'm aiming for you!" with Green Arrow or "You're outrageous!" with Aquaman. Even "You blow me away!" would've redeemed that Red Tornado card a little bit, but there's nothing. All we have is "Have a Dynamic Valentine's Day!" on the back of every card, and there is no way you will convince me that this was not the first thing they came up with. Minus 2 Hearts.
Extras: A lot of this year's Valentines have come with a little something extra, and in Batman's case, it's temporary tattoos that fit into slots on the card. Again, this means that you're stuck with five Red Tornado tats that nobody in their right mind wants on their skin, but I cannot deny that emblazoning yourself with a Batman getting ready to throw down the Hammers of Justice has the potential to cause a few swoons. Plus 2 Hearts.
Since -- and I hate that I have to type this -- Batman couldn't get the job done by himself, the next logical step was to see if the combined forces of the Justice League were up to the task. In the world of Valentines, "The Justice League" translates to a slightly off-model sausage fest of Batman, Superman the Flash and Green Lantern, but it is
a definite improvement.
Romance: Well... they try, so I guess that's something. These cards at least have the good ol' "Bee Mine" style messages on them and a few of them even make sense. Superman inviting you to "Fly High," for instance, is right on the money. But then they get to the one that advises you to "Fight for Justice on Valentine's Day," which seems to be veering away from the idea of love, and by the time you get to the Flash, the message has taken a turn:
"Hope this whole miserable day is over soon," says Licensed Art Barry Allen! Minus 1 Heart.
Creativity: As strange as the messages on the cards may be, they at least made the effort, and the design of the cards is actually pretty solid. The backs are all distinctive, and the back of the bigger card has a pretty neat look to it:
OPTION THREE: The Avengers
No joke, I would probably buy that as Justice League stationery. But then, I'm a 29 year-old who bought six boxes of Valentines tonight, so take that with a grain of salt. Plus 1 Heart.
Extras: Like the Brave and the Bold Valentines, the Justice League ones also came with temporary tattoos. But rather than going with the characters themselves, or even their individual logos, they went with the crazy Pan-Am-Meets-Venture-Bros. logos that have been showing up on t-shirts despite never actually appearing on anything other than merchandise. Plus 1 Heart.
Since DC's heroes seemed hell-bent on dragging your love life to the bottom of the barrel, I was hoping Marvel's Avengers might fare a little better. They had, after all, teamed up with Hallmark, the all-time champion of fleecing you out of your money on every holiday they can slap onto cardstock. Unfortunately, that is not the case, as the Avengers Valentines are about the most low-rent things I've seen, right down to cheap paper stock that feels like it was boxed directly after coming out of an inkjet printer.
Romance: Have you ever wondered if stock art created for an action movie could be repurposed to express emotions other than "Yelling?"
OPTION FOUR: Captain America
Because the answer is no. Minus 2 Hearts.
Creativity: Just to give you an idea of what we're working with here, this set has only four different cards, and they still use the same picture of Thor, Captain America and Iron Man twice. Minus 1 Heart.
Extras: This set comes with a sheet of stickers, and considering how terrible the Valentines are, they're not bad. There's a pretty good variety, with a bunch of different Avengers logos, different art for all three characters, and even one where Iron Man is offering the ever-so-romantic sentiment "I have a plan... ATTACK!" Even a set of cards this awful can't screw up the inherent radness of stickers. Plus 1 Heart.
After the abysmal Avengers Valentines, I wasn't expecting Captain America's to be any good at all. But then again, I also wasn't expecting one of Marvel's big-budget super-hero movies to have an extended musical number about buying war bonds and punching Hitler either, and that certainly happened. While the Valentines don't quite reach those heights, they do get things back on track.
OPTION FIVE: Spider-Man
Romance: You know that card above that promises "Valentine Fun is coming your way?" It kind of looks less like "Valentine Fun" and more like "an angry man who wants to kill Nazis" is coming my way. Don't get me wrong, I agree on the fun part, it's the Valentine aspect that's throwing me. Push.
Creativity: As much as I blasted the Brave and the Bold Valentines for going with the first thing that they thought of, it's not like they could really get away with leaving out the "I Want You" gag. And really, as much as it doesn't make a whole lot of sense, at least the "Coming Your Way" Valentine works with the art. Someone actually looked at these, which puts them a step above the Avengers. Plus 1 Heart.
Extras: Like the Avengers Valentines, Cap comes with stickers, and they are once again awesome. There's less variety -- three designs, including a star, a shield and Cap jumping through a featureless white void like he's about to beat the living hell out of Mac and PC -- but still. Stickers. You can stick them to things. Got a notebook? Bam. It's a Captain America notebook now. Plus 1 Heart.
All right, now
we're getting somewhere. Forget those rickety-ass paper valentines from those Johnny Come-Latelies in the Avengers, Spider-Man is on cardstock
, son. And thanks to the full face mask, his expression can be as amorous as your imagination can make it.
Romance: There's a reason Spider-Man always ends up with supermodels and buxom, leather-clad cat burglars. The dude is smooth, and his Valentines are right up there with it. Hell, the one about "hanging around" is even a poem. Check the Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe, did Peter Parker get bitten by a radioactive Lord Byron? Plus 2 Hearts.
Creativity: There are only four designs in a set of sixteen cards, but they make the most of what they're given. The captions all fit what's going on in the image, and they even managed to slip in a reference to "tingling," both hinting at the danger of a forbidden love and opening the door for a double-entendre follow-up to your Valentine. These things are seriously doing half the work for you, the only thing you have to do is show up and sign it. Plus 2 Hearts.
Extras: Unlike the other Marvel Valentines, Spider-Man goes with pencils. It's a bold choice, but a shrewd one -- it's true to the character's brainy nature, but also a practical gift designed to be used. And every time it is, it's a reminder of that awesome Valentine, long after the day is over. Truly, it is spinning a web any size... of love.
The only problem is that it might be a little too practical. I mean, at the end of the day, it's a pencil, and unless you're trying to woo a writer who's really into Spider-Man (hint), it might not foster the same feelings that you'd get from, say, candy or flowers. Still, it's a solid choice. Plus 1 Heart.
So Spider-Man's good, but I was wondering if there might be something better out there. Maybe something that we like a lot here at ComicsAlliance that's not necessarily super-heroes. Something that's already
about love and friendship.
OPTION SIX: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic
As evidenced by the fact that I've been researching and writing a guide to children's valentines for the past few hours, I've experienced a lot of disappointment in my life. But by far the single most disappointing thing that has ever happened in the history of the planet Earth was the moment that I opened this box.
Romance: Okay. Deep breaths. We'll hit the highlights first. To be fair, there are a couple of good ones in here, including a couple that are oversized so that, in the true spirit of Valentine's Day, you can separate the people you really like from the riff-raff that get cards out of obligation. Right away, we are off to a bad start. Push.
Creativity: Not since Bill Buckner has the ball been dropped this hard, folks. I mean, just look at the cards above. I'll give you Twilight Sparkle and Spike being BFFs, but check it: You have a character named Twilight Sparkle. Shouldn't she be the one on your card about having a sparkly day? And shouldn't Pinkie Pie be the one on the card about being a sweetie pie? And for f***'s sake, if you're going to do a joke about percentages...
...shouldn't it be with Rainbow Dash, who famously demanded that her dress for the Grand Galloping Gala be made 20% cooler?!
Do you even watch the show?! Did you think there wouldn't be grown men in their 20s that were going to notice your half-assed tomfoolery?! Do you think this is a f***ing game?! Get your sh** together, Pony Valentines! MINUS FIVE HEARTS!
Extras: Not a damn thing.
Well thanks a lot, guys: Valentine's Day is ruined
. But I'm not going out like that. There's only one thing we can do to save Romance now:
OPTION OMEGA: The Mighty Thor
That's right, everybody: Thor Valentines -- or as I've taken to calling them, Valhallentines. Undoubtedly crafted by the Dwarves of Svartalfheim out of some kind of mystical Uru paper, these things are top shelf all the way. For one thing, they've got more variety in the designs than any other set, and since that mostly just means pictures of Chris Hemsworth holding up his magic hammer in various ways, it's something everyone can enjoy.
Romance: Not only does it feature actual photography rather than just stock illustration -- PhotoShopped as it may be -- these things are maybe the most active valentines I've ever seen. There's no "let's hang out," these things are telling you to RIDE THE WIND because IT'S TIME TO ACT! These are basically Valentines as envisioned by Ronnie James Dio, and that is real. Plus 5 Hearts.
Creativity: Okay, this is where there's a slight misstep, as there's one Valentine that uses the same image as one of the others, but with a Helmet pasted on Thor's head in the most hilariously obvious way possible.
That said, this set's still got the edge on everyone else, if only because they don't stop with Thor. They bring in Loki, who makes the perfect Valentine for the significant other that you suspect may be cheating on you...
...and then they drop their master stroke: The Warriors Three.
Your eyes do not deceive you: That is a Valentine with the Lion of Asgard, Volstagg the Voluminous on it. Plus 10 Hearts.
Extras: When I said this thing was top shelf, I wasn't kidding around. Not only does it come with two different kinds of stickers, but this set features an actual mailbox for your Valentines:
Please note that it does not actually come with a copy of 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand for XBox 360; I just threw that in for scale. But it does have its own special feature, in that every time you open it, that thing lights up with flashing red LEDs. The only missed opportunity here was that they didn't make it in the shape of Mjolnir, but with one of those Spider-Man pencils and a roll of tape, you can pretty much do the job yourself. Plus 30 Hearts.
Yeah I said it: 30 Hearts
. It lights up, people. It lights up