I don't know about you, but for me, Valentine's day presents a pretty huge problem, in that I am only really comfortable expressing my emotions through Batman. Fortunately, America's thriving greeting card industry has addressed that very problem with their annual crop of Valentine's Day Cards!
Okay, admittedly, the ones with the stuff I like are mostly meant for children to hand out at elementary school, but that doesn't mean that you and I can't use them to express our emotions in our adult lives -- it just means that people might look at you funny in the checkout line. But which to pick? It's a tough decision that could impact your entire romantic existence, which is why I am once again stepping up to tell you which Valentines are the best!
Romance: The Caped Crusader made a pretty abysmal showing in last year's crop of Valentines, so I'm happy to report that this time around, things are a lot better. I'm particularly fond of the one in the middle above, because really, if there's one quick way to a person's heart, it's comparing them to Batman. Well, it is for me, anyway. I do think it's a little weird that they refer to "Heart" as Batman's "superpower" though. If it's meant to be "heart" as in "determination and perseverance," it works, but since this is a card for a holiday built around romance (and, you know, ancient fertility rituals), then I think there's a chance that they're actually saying Batman's greatest ability is his capacity for feeling romantic love. Citation needed, bro.
It's the card on the left that's really a cause for concern, though. A lot of the superhero cards take this route, but if you're really telling someone that you hope their day is packed with the kind of adventures that Batman has, then you're really just telling them that you hope they have to punch out genocidal clowns and face a series of Alice In Wonderland-themed deathtraps, each more deadly than the last. Some people might not find this entirely romantic.
Extras: For those of you who don't shop for Valentines made for third graders on a regular basis, it might surprise you to learn that most of today's Valentines come with some kind of extra goodie, like a stickers or temporary tattoos. In this case, it's a box shaped like Batman's head, seen here with a copy of 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand for scale:
Surprising no one, this is not the first replica of Batman's head that I have ever owned, but can you ever really have enough? I think not.
Standout Card: For me, the highlight of the Batman set has got to be this one:
That's... that's a little explicit for elementary school, isn't it? Especially when you combine it with that knowing smile (or, I guess, knowing slightly upturned mouth).
Final Ranking: 8/10
Romance: I'm not sure what's weirder: That someone thought The Dark Knight Rises would make good source material for Valentines, or that they managed to put this entire product together without Catwoman on a single card. Seriously, they don't even have Bane on any of these, it's just Movie Batman hanging around with some truly unreadable text, and even then, what's here isn't exactly in the spirit of the holiday.
I'm willing to grant that "the fire rises" could have some romantic connotations, but "the shadows belong to me" is a little less "I hope you'll go out with me" and a little more "I am sending you my severed ear to prove my love."
Extras: Like all the great copout Valentines, the TDKR ones opted to include a pack of pencils. What sets them apart, though, is that these things are uglier than homemade sin:
So ugly, in fact, that 50 Cent appears to be Quantum Leaping out of this picture. Godspeed, Fitty. May your next leap be the leap... home.
Standout Card: The one redeeming quality of these cards is that, since they are based on a movie and take their captions entirely from the list of phrases approved by Warner Bros. marketing, there are a handful that appear to be written in Bane Voice:
This is amazing, if only because it opens up an entirely new and awesome way to respond when people confess their love for you. "I choo-choo-choose you!" "You think this gives you power over me?"
Final Ranking: 4/10
Romance: Despite the fact that Power Rangers Megaforce (not to be confused with the classic 1982 Hal Needham flying dirtbike movie MegaForce, in which we learn that good guys always win... even in the '80s) hadn't even aired when these things hit stores, they've done the best with what they've got. Most of the cards seem to be built around the cast jumping around doing karate moves with captions like "MEGA VALENTINE POWER!" and "DYNAMIC VALENTINE BLAST!" and while that's not exactly the traditional definition of Romance, it's something I can get behind. Who hasn't been so in love that all you wanted to do was throw jump kicks?
Plus, there's the one that just says "Happy Valentine's Day" and has a picture of a robot made of robots. If this could be the accepted portrayal of love from now on, that would be fantastic.
Extras: In addition to a bonus sheet of stickers, the PRMF Valentines come with a sheet of temporary tattoos:
Normally, temporary tattoos are only a short step above pencils. They're hard to put in the cards without ripping things, and -- much like young love -- are prone to fading fast. These, however, have some potential, as giving individual profiles of all five rangers means that there's no way I won't have (temporary) Power Rangers Knuckle Tats when Valentine's Day rolls around.
Standout Card: Not only is this the best card in the Power Rangers set, it might be the best card I picked up in any set:
No joke: This card is basically telling someone that your feelings for them are so intense that they are capable of destroying giant space monsters with the power of love. If you find someone who expresses their feelings in those terms, then that is relationship material.
Romance: Of all the Valentines I got, the TMNT ones are the least romantic by far, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Instead of trying to force hearts and flowers out of, say, Thor beating Frost Giants to death with a magic hammer, they go with the emotion at the core of the franchise: Teenage Mutant Ninja Brotherhood.
It ends up working pretty well, although "You're one awesome dude!" and "Friends like us stick together!" would seem to be more useful for expressing nice thoughts to your pals than this one of Leonardo that just says "Lean. Mean. Green." I've lived at least three times longer than the target audience, and I've only been in a situation where that would be an applicable thing to hand to someone on a card maybe twice times.
Extras: In an interesting twist, the TMNT Valentine cards are themselves stickers. It's actually a nice touch, as "Friends Like Us Stick Together" will stay on the cover of that Math book, reminding you of the bonds of friendship long after the other cards have been lost behind the dresser.
I get that it's meant to be a pun on "check you later," but the card as written is literally announcing to someone that you intend to beat them with nunchucks at an unspecified future time. That's not really romantic or friendly.
Romance: I'm not gonna lie, folks, I was actually looking forward to these way more than I should've been. As long-time ComicsAlliance readers may recall, Twilight: Breaking Dawn: Part 2 was legit one of my favorite movies of 2012, largely because there are about 20 minutes of that movie devoted entirely to people having their heads ripped off, getting set on fire, and being cast into molten lava. Seriously, it's great. And yet, this damn box of valentines doesn't feature a single one -- a single one! -- with a decapitation. What a rip.
Instead, I'm stuck with a bunch of pictures of Edward and Jacob looking vaguely dyspeptic. Or... smouldering, I guess? Either way, I do think that these things do the best at actually working with the premise of Valentine's day, with captions that are actually about romance. Or Twilight's version of romance, which is mostly about being extremely pallid or having sexy werewolf abs.
Extras: So I guess this is a thing I own now:
Standout Card: Okay, look. I get that Twilight is a story about immortals who spend their time wrestling bears and going to high school so they can predator on all the doe-eyed teens, but let's be real here:
Is a 7th grade card exchange really where you want to drop your hopes of eternal, everlasting love on someone?
So there's a handful of options, but let's say you want to think a little outside the box here. Maybe comics, superheroes and Twilights aren't enough to get your feelings across. Maybe you want the best thing you can buy. Maybe you want... the ultimate Valentine.
Last year, I picked up a box of lenticular Valentines that featured dinosaurs, and when you tilted them, they turned into dinosaur skeletons, plus puns. Spinosaurus, for example, was "I'm a big fan." This year, I grabbed a box by the same company:
Romance: WHEN YOU TURN THEM ONE WAY, THEY ARE GUITARS.
Extras: WHEN YOU TURN THEM THE OTHER WAY, THEY ARE SKULLS.
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