Love EverlastingLove Everlasting, Vol. 2

Writer: Tom King
Artist: Elsa Charretier
Colorist: Matt Hollingsworth
Letterer: Clayton Cowles 
Publisher: Image Comics
Publication Date: November 15, 2023

Tom King described Love Everlasting in the same vein as The Sandman: traversing the various tropes of romance stories to learn about the human condition. It was an ambitious pitch, and paired with artist Elsa Charretier, the two created something completely unlike any other comic on the stands. 

This did come with some growing pains. In Love Everlasting Vol 1 there were not as many one-off, exploratory stories as I’d hoped for given the pitch, and the scripting in the first couple issues felt like it was hindering Charretier’s fluid art style. However, by issue #4, the series found its groove. And by Love Everlasting Vol 2, the series has come completely into its own.

When we last left Joan Peterson, she had a fateful meeting with Penny Page, learning that her predicament — doomed to live out love stories before being killed in an endless cycle — is connected in some way to her mysterious mother. As we return to the series, we don’t immediately follow up on the “how” and “why” of the mystery, but rather immerse ourselves completely into a new love story for Joan.

The first noticeable difference here is that this entire collection of issues is one story arc, called “Too Hip for Love.” Rather than having Joan bounce from love story to love story multiple times in the same issue, we’re instead treated to an emotional journey contained within one relationship. Joan here is a hip, 60s woman who doesn’t want to settle down, but decides to lean into her inevitable fate by marrying mild mannered Don. And from here we follow a harrowing story about the nature of relationships, the expectations of love, and how we evolve with, and away, from our partners. 

Artistically the book sets a very different mood than the first volume of the series. Whereas the first five issues felt like they were capturing a warm, nostalgic past with dark, moody horror creeping in, these latest five issues instantly feel like a traditional and earnest love story, courtesy of Elsa Charretier’s extremely animated figures and the coloring work of Matt Hollingsworth . There is no emotional distance between the reader and the artwork asking us to question the events we’re witnessing. Rather, we’re immediately engaged by the warmth of Joan’s home and the striking, romantic  blues and purples of the night sky with Joan and Don. In moments of weakness, a hungover Joan is highlighted with a sickly green.

Love Everlasting Vol 2 immediately makes me feel like I’m in Joan’s head, I’m living out this life, and I sense the anxiety that her parents put on her, the rebellious streak she carries and the comfort of having someone in your life you may not love but who can provide stability. 

However, where this arc truly succeeds is in its ability to tell a story worthy of a great American novel: a slow, contemplative odyssey through the emotions of one person throughout their life and how their ideas of self, family, and love evolve with age. Joan here starts as a rebellious teenager and finds herself in the ever growing anxiety of adulthood, responsibility, and expectations placed upon her. The romance she has with Don could hardly be called ideal, but it is of the times, it feels in the spirit of the 1960s suburbia that this story is examining.

Love Everlasting

In their relationship tensions, Joan and Don’s marriage comes to life in vivid, gut-wrenching detail. We settle into our fate with Joan, where there appears to be no end to this relationship or the year 1963; there’s no escape without hurting others and there’s nowhere worth escaping to. And so we stay. 

We stay and we stay and we stay, dying a little bit each day but taking solace in the small joys that life affords us. The journey through Joan’s years with Don ends up feeling like pulling shards of glass out of your heart, a pain that isn’t so much a heartbreak, but feels more like a wound that cannot be healed, a depth of pain that can never quite be satisfied. 

And yet, that is simply what life is for many: everlasting pain coupled with far too few fleeting joys that we can take comfort in. There is no doubt some form of love here but it’s packaged with an emotional weight that cannot be ignored. But we can’t escape that weight, we have to carry it. As we grow old with our routine comforts and our daily pain, the harshest pain we can still experience is when everything, everyone, goes away entirely.

The haunting authenticity of Joan’s feelings, paired with the knowledge that we will eventually leave this world, this relationship, this life behind creates a tremendous anxiety throughout the final couple issues. As the story starts we, like Joan, are playing our part but are waiting for the other shoe to drop. We wait until our expectations turn to paranoia and madness. And when we come back to “reality,” we haven’t so much left our expectations behind but become better at hiding them. Joan goes an entire lifetime and feels all the pains and joys that come with it, but does she ever find love? And is she ever going to be in a place where finding life is anything but a death sentence? How does one navigate that impending doom, and the temporary nature of the world? That in a nutshell is the premise of the series but it’s also the agonizing experience we all must endure in our lifetime. 

Love Everlasting Vol 2 is a triumphant, heartbreaking story that easily ranks among the best comics of the year. Any fan of Tom King and Elsa Charretier should read this, even if they haven’t read the first volume. And as we approach holiday shopping, this is a comic I intend to buy over and over again, because everyone deserves the gift of powerful art, and what’s more powerful than a story that asks what is love, will we ever find it and what should we do with it?

Verdict: BUY

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