In Eros Inc., Mot Fleishman is romance cynic with a job to match. Each day, she listens to callers bitch about their less than perfect boyfriends and offers halfhearted advice on whether they should break it off. But one afternoon, as she rides her bike home, a strange man pounces on Mot, gropes her, and is promptly hit by a bus. But instead of getting squished, the fellow explodes into hundreds of hearts. As she recovers from her shock, Mot is quickly informed that she's been pressed into service by supernatural corporate body Eros Inc. In her new role as a Cupid, it's Mot's job to make matches among the unsuspecting lovelorn by rubbing small tokens against the potential lovers' bodies, opening their minds to love at first sight. At the same time, she's dealing with a fresh set of quirky coworkers who each have their own takes on life and love.
In other words, it's a less morbid Dead Like Me.
Unfortunately, Eros Inc. is greatly overwhelmed by its art. Creator Michael May illustrates his scenes with stark, super-thick lines, giving each line near-equal weight. The result is that the rough edges of the drawings take on a sloppy rather than rough-hewn look, and readers are forced to peer through the lines to decipher May's character designs. Oddly, this appears to be an issue of medium or time rather than talent; judging from the comics on May's blog, he's capable of both finer, cleaner lines and energetic pencil and ink illustrations. The latter style, though looser, strikes me as a much better fit for the comic's romantic and offbeat premise.
Once you get past the inking issues, Eros Inc. is a cute comic with remarkably strong characters. May's background is in filmmaking and television, and it shows. Each character has a distinct voice and a unique way of reacting to the world. Mot may begin a bit dour, but her role as Cupid pushes her out into the world and lets her open herself to love again. David, Mot's would-be paramour, is frighteningly needy, but, on occasion, pulls out a surprising bit of backbone. And Mot's cupidian boss Clue oscillates between groan-inducing puns and sailor-mouthed wisecracks, and imparts nuggests of wisdom even as he's hiding the ball. Sure, the characters are over the top, but they feel real within the context of this universe, and much of the dialogue is fantastically witty and fast-paced.
But the world into which May has dropped these characters doesn't yet feel real. Mot feels like a fully realized human with a personality and a backstory, but aside from a neighbor, a landlord, and a crappy job, it's not clear what Mot's relationship is to her environment. What does she do for fun? Who are her friends? Where does she hang out? And how on Earth did she end up on a blind date?
The same goes for Eros Inc. itself. A little mystery is fine -- preferable even -- but I never feel quite immersed in the world where this love company exists. We get some of the mystical rules of Eros Inc., -- that Cupids don't force people to fall in love (only opening people to the possibility) and what happens if Cupids try to match people of the wrong sexual orientation -- but are missing a lot of the basics. Why should Mot bother to match people? What happens if she doesn't? And the scale of the company's supernatural elements is a bit out of whack. Initially, the company's magical elements are relatively understated, but in Chapter Three, the comic takes a turn for the drastically (and theologically uncomfortable) supernatural. And one character makes a nonchalant reentrance after making an extremely drastic exit. It doesn't make the comic any less entertaining, but the company fails to feel like any part of a cohesive world.
Eros Inc. is fairly rough around the edges. But, since each love match Mot makes is its own story arc, the comic has a very episodic feel, and at just over 100 strips, it has plenty of room to grow. It may not be the best looking comic in the room, but it makes great conversation -- and that's got to be worth a few dinner dates.