Going through a break-up can be tough no matter how long the relationship lasted. According to psychologists, the seven stages of grief often associated with those who experience the death of someone close to them can similarly be applied to how the human psyche deals with the ending of relationships. Whether you ready to move on or still clamoring onto hope that your former partner may come back, here are some comics I have enjoyed and recommend reading for each stage of breakup grief.
1. Desperate for Answers
You can’t believe this just happened and furthermore, you don’t know how it happened. Whether it feels completely out of left field or a slow burn to the inevitable, everyone during the early stages of a breakup replays moments over and over again to find “where it all went wrong.”
Archie by Mark Waid, Fiona Staples, Annie Wu, and Veronica Fish
Archie got an updated look and origin story in Waid’s 2015 reboot. The comics follow the breakup of Archie and Betty and is full of high school romance, teenage angst, and upbeat, beautifully colored art. This series while similar to Riverdale feels more genuine and is the perfect comic to escape into while looking for your own answers.
You refuse to believe it happened or maybe how it happened. There is always a moment, even brief of denial of the end of a relationship. Somewhere in your brain, you think, “this will work out, we’ll be fine.” False brain, false.
Mister Miracle by Tom King, Mitch Gerards and Clayton Cowels
Mister Miracle, while at this point is still ongoing, heavily deals with the relationship between Scott Free and Barda. The book is a mystery within and of itself. It showcases their relationship while also tackling themes such as depression, mental health, and delirium. Many fan theories even suggest that Scott Free himself in the book is either dreaming or in complete denial of reality. It is the perfect unraveling tale to pick up while your own brain grovels with your new reality.
You will do anything to avoid accepting it is over. In this stage, it is easy to blame everything on yourself and strive to change even to dangerous or unhealthy ends in order to save a failed relationship. However, when you promise to fix all the problems you are placing the entire burden of repairing and sustaining a failing relationship onto yourself. It’s an unfair thought process and you deserve better.
Winter Soldier by Ed Brubaker,
In Brubaker’s critically acclaimed run of Winter Soldier, Bucky Barnes and Natasha Romanoff are together and fighting the demons of their pasts. Throughout the book, Bucky is faced with impossible decisions and is willing to give anything to save Natasha and their love. This comic is extremely emotional and a lot of Bucky’s actions are similar to someone dealing with low self-worth in the “bargaining” stage of grief. Without spoiling it I can say, he risks his life as well as others to restore his relationship with Natasha before finally realizing it is for naught.
You were doing ok but the pain is too much and suddenly you are thrust back into feeling like you have to fix things. Sometimes it may take breaking up and reconciling again before you’re absolutely convinced it’s time to let go. This is also the hardest times to come to grip with the reality that it is over.
Hawkeye by Matt Fraction,
While Marvel’s most critically acclaimed comic in recent memory does not contain a traditional love story, it does show the outcome of many failed love stories and the beginning of a new friendship. This Hawkeye run feels like a dark comedy and though it has moments of genuine humor it also tackles toxicity and the difficulty in new beginnings. In many ways, this book can act as a mirror similar to BoJack Horseman or other dark comedies to show our unhealthy coping mechanisms that we may have been hiding or unaware of previously.
When anger sets in it’s usually because in some way you have started to get over the breakup and moved past the fear of being alone or not with the said partner. The stage of anger can also be very empowering. It’s the time you are able to realize you matter and you deserve more from a relationship. Sometimes the anger is directed towards your partner but it’s better to channel it in a healthier way.
Catwoman by Joelle Jones and Laura Allred
In this book, Selina has just broken up with Bruce and while that relationship still haunts her she is focused on making her own way in a new city. The run just started and is off to an excellent start. Selina focuses her anger over the breakup on fighting crime and unraveling mysteries. While it is unclear if Selina will reunite with Bruce it is clear that she is striving to move on and get past her feelings of loss.
6. Initial Acceptance
You have finally grasped that it’s just not good for you to keep trying anymore. It’s time to move on and find something stable for you, whether that be alone or with someone else. Furthermore, this is the point where you need to see a happy ending. It’s good to remember that love is still out there.
Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Despite taking place in the depths of space and featuring many types of alien species, Saga is the most human love story on comic shelves. Alana and Marco’s relationship is a series of ups and downs followed by being chased by mercenaries and thrust into the middle of a long going galactic war. Saga offers a lot of life lessons but one of the biggest takeaways is how a relationship should be and how difficult it can be to maintain.
7. Redirected Hope
You did it. You are moving on and finding new love out in the world. This is the moment where you can move onto your regularly scheduled comics!