Love EVerlasting #7
The acclaimed horror/romance series continues. After the game-changing twist in the last issue, Joan wakes up in a world she does not and cannot understand. Every rule has been broken, and she must fight her way out of this new trap of love or face her greatest fear-her wedding night!
Form is defined as “a particular way in which a thing exists or appears; a manifestation,” which refers to the way a piece of art or literature is assembled on the page. In comics, this can manifest as both the larger page and each individual panel, constructing an image that is both a part of and the whole. The power of comics comes in the juxtaposition of static images that gives the illusion of change and motion, in that it utilizes form to indicate change or conflict, which in turn drives a story. A master of sequential craft understands how form can affect the experience of reading a narrative, and manipulate the flow of it.
With Love Everlasting #7 – written by Tom King with art from Elsa Charretier, colors by Matt Hollingsworth, and letters from Clayton Cowles – the creative team uses form to continue a depicted deterioration of reality as Joan struggles with her endless loops of love, or in the case of this arc, the lack of loops. The issue opens with a continuity of Joan’s life in 1963 from the last story, breaking the first six issues’ new time/place format.
Joan and Don are a perfect, happily married couple with two sons and a cozy life in the suburbs. Joan’s living through the motions, pretending to be happy as the horror of her existence continues to creep in. After a trip to the store, Joan snaps and her reality begins to break, destroying her home. Later, she comes across Penny Page, who pretends she doesn’t know Joan while holding back a sinister smirk at the heroine’s aggravated state. Joan’s breakdown continues until the point of being placed in a mental institution, completely devoid of any life.
The script for this issue hits the gas, taking an already speedy pace due to the done-in-one settings of the first arc and accelerating it to ten. This pace is largely achieved thanks to Charretier’s panel layouts, which break from the typical range of four to six per page to 24. These pages reflect Joan’s reality shattering, first illustrated through a realization that her life is a lie when coming home from shopping. The narration “God put me on this earth for a reason” becomes the notes rearranging on the first 24-panel page, captioning images of Joan screaming, jars breaking, and empty realizations.
Charretier uses these overwhelming pages to create a sense of bombastic emotional work, linking some panels to create a cohesive image, like a close-up of Joan screaming in an off-center collection. The next page will follow suit, using the sprawled body of Joan smoking after her outburst, framing the body in the center of the grid while panels in the left and right corners provide close-ups of her expression.
The breakdown of pages into these micro panels allows for tighter control of Joan’s perspective and showcases the fragmentation that an endless loop of lives will cause. Joan is a woman out of time and dislodged from physical space, she no longer observes her reality in a linear fashion, and the layouts match that experience. Using a fractured perspective also adds a layer of mystery to the writing, allowing King to build suspense through something other than withholding information. While there’s still plenty unknown about Joan’s situation and why she’s stuck, the tension lingers about when she’ll shift in time again, or even if she will now.
There seems to be an indication that the process is broken, as time is no longer moving in the story. Joan remarks to her father that she married Don in 1963, after meeting him in ‘63, and then graduated from two years of college in ‘63, and then after another three years they bought a house in ‘63. Joan’s father explains that her timeline is wrong, and the couple married in ‘53, not ‘63. The only thing Joan is sure of now is her name Joan Peterson, the only constant in her life.
King also layers in the tension of reality vs. fantasy through Joan’s romance novels, which all have plots based around the lives she’s lived through. King creates a chicken/egg dichotomy, whispering to the audience that Joan may have never been traveling through love stories in a science fiction way, but she kept inserting herself into the stories of passion and adventure to escape a dull life. By the end of the issue, there are serious doubts about this, and the scene with Penny makes the case that something more sinister is going on than a suburban housewife’s mental breakdown.
One indication of a question about the nature of the reality Joan’s living through comes thanks to Hollingsworth’s coloring. As Joan continues to pour over her stories, she shifts from her typical complexion to a stark bluish-gray. These stories bridge her time at home to the hospital she’s put into, as the color literally drains from her. By the end of the issue, all life and color have been stripped from Joan, leaving her a husk of black and gray in a hospital gown.
The last page uses the small panel work again to highlight the change, as a four-panel sequence shows the versions of Joan in other lives, full of colors that fit right at home with the series’ look before shifting into her now bleak visage. It’s a stark reminder something is still simmering below the surface of this story, and it feels like an explosive reveal about Joan’s circumstances is on the way.
Love Everlasting #7 is an excellent showcase of breaking form for a specific effect, straying from an established rhythm of panels and palettes to play into Joan’s break in reality. As the book throws a twist of a suburban housewife having a mental breakdown as an explanation for the plot so far, the writing and art on display tell another story, indicating something more is happening. The art and color make it clear that something else is happening with Joan, and that the more abstract, otherworldly angle is to blame for the issue’s descent into a fractured reality.
Love Everlasting #6: Round and Round
- Writing - 10/1010/10
- Storyline - 10/1010/10
- Art - 10/1010/10
- Color - 10/1010/10
- Cover Art - 10/1010/10
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