Brimstone and Roses by Mei Rothschild at first glance looks like any other fake dating rom-com. The premise sounds promising with the demon contract twist, but then the story becomes so much more than that. The webcomic navigates important issues about mental health and toxic relationships. Thank goodness season 2 is coming soon (May 6th). If this is your first time hearing about this webcomic, now is your time to catch up on season 1. Really, this story is a gem you don’t want to overlook.
Bea needs to bring a date to her sister’s wedding, so she summons a demon. But fake dating a demon to make her ex-girlfriend jealous is not as simple, and Bea later discovers that the demon Lazareth (Laz) will be staying with her for “vacation.” It’s part of the contract’s terms and conditions, after all. So she’s stuck with a roommate that enjoys sabotaging her dates. Bea deals with trying to please everyone around her and keeping it together. As time progresses, however, the cracks open wider and she finds herself in a situation that even she can’t get out of.
For me, the first few episodes give the impression that this is going to be a fake dating story. Nothing wrong with that. I personally enjoy a good rom-com. Then the story deeply explores mental health, self-sabotage, how depression and anxiety can exhaust you (even with treatment), and being in a toxic relationship. Rothschild’s storytelling is remarkable. Her complex characters and clever plot twists impress me. Bea’s character development hits too close to home. The only way for her to break the contract with Laz is for her heart to be fulfilled, whatever that means. She gets by at her day job and dates people, but she’s stuck in the same place. Her sister, Sofia, and her friends encourage her to move forward… Bea just can’t pursue things for herself. She also can’t say no. When she meets Alex, she thinks she’s found love and happiness. The relationship turns toxic, although she keeps excusing his manipulation and abuse. As someone who was in a toxic relationship with a romantic partner over a decade ago, I know exactly what Bea’s going through. Rothschild does more than a fantastic job with handling mental health and intimate partner violence in this webcomic. The story demonstrates that abuse isn’t just physical. Even people who appear kind and generous can inflict emotional and psychological damage.
Rothschild not only excels in nuanced discussions about mental health, but the intersectionality deserves praise too. The characters, dynamic and complicated, are racially, ethnically, sexually, and gender diverse. Bea is plus-sized, Latina (Mexican), and bisexual. Her sister is a trans lesbian. Laz is ace spec (demisexual) and biromantic. The setting (St. Louis, Missouri) reflects the diversity of suburban areas instead of the white default. The Spanglish spoken in Bea’s family is spot on. Plus, Rothschild doesn’t gloss over the microaggressions, biases, queerphobia and biphobia that Bea faces.
The climax and ending of season 1 has me rooting for Bea and Laz. I want Bea to fight for her agency and self-worth, and I’m wondering whether Laz will remember more about his past life.
Brimstone and Roses is available on WebToon. Season 2 starts May 6th.
For more great webcomic recommendations, check out our Wednesday Webcomics archives!
Author: Brahidaliz Martinez
Brahidaliz (pronounced Bra-da-leez) is a 2019 graduate of American University’s MFA in creative writing program. They’re a submissions editor for Uncanny Magazine. Their various areas of interest include intersectionality in apocalyptic and disaster films, Artificial Intelligence, writing for animation, YA SFF, and LGBTQ+ representation in children’s media.
Location: DC Metro area
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