Love Everlasting #6
“Structure is a tool, not a rule.”
The adage is some of the best advice I was given in grad school while learning to write TV pilots. The structure is taught to many as the rule of law, serving as a checklist for the necessary elements of a good story. A story needs a beginning, middle, and end. 3 or 5 acts are the most common paradigms for an account, following rising action that leads to a climax before a falling move that ends with a resolution. Entire generations of writers (myself included) have been taught to worship at Joseph Campbell’s and the Monomyth’s altar.
While plenty of good stories are predictable, like a Swiss watch built on the notion of structure, just as many thrive thanks to the abandoning of it, these notions can harm the developing writer, functioning as an imposed value system that rewards predictability and strips bold decision-making in service of the plot. To subvert, manipulate or ignore structure can lead to excellent results, in the same way twisting a trope or recurring stock archetype can.
Love Everlasting #6 – written by Tom King with art from Elsa Charretier, Matt Hollingsworth colors, and Clayton Cowles letters – launches its second arc with a new twist to the endless loop of love Joan finds herself in. Now aware of the role she has to play, falling in love, dying, and pursuing love all over again, Joan floats through her current life as a college student in the 60s. She’s introduced to Don, a square from a podunk town, and he proposes on their first night together.
Joan accepts, knowing she will fall for him sooner than later, and the issue blurs through the preparations for the wedding. It’s clear Joan doesn’t love him but goes through the motions to the wedding day. After Joan kisses the groom, she splits and drives out of town until the cowboy appears. Joan prepares for her death, but it never comes. The cowboy wishes Joan well and returns her to Don and the wedding party. The loop doesn’t reset, and Joan is swept to Niagara for her honeymoon with Don.
While the larger plot is still shrouded in mystery, this issue clarifies some pieces. The pivot in structure for the issue ensures that the story doesn’t start to feel rote, and King makes it clear within the first few pages that something is different this time. After the revelation that Joan’s mother seems responsible for the love loops, a safe marriage appears to be the end goal. In Joan’s narration, King clarifies that she doubts Don, and love is missing from this relationship. In that absence of love, stability and comfort take hold.
King’s script highlights that transaction, switching pattern for mystery, throwing all the established rules of the first five issues out the window. Much like the romance genre will do every decade, the script reinvents itself in this arc to fight predictability. Based on the previous experiences of the story, it comes as a legitimate shock when the Cowboy appears and bypasses his usual violent streak. It’s a narrative decision that rings more startling than the shots fired from his six-shooters.
Charretier’s style blends timeless and timely, ensuring it’s recognizable as it adapts to any time and place. If King’s scripting evokes surprise, then Charretier’s art is a contrast, delivering quality on par with the previous arc. Charretier slips into the aesthetic of the swinging sixties with ease, with Joan channeling a look that seems to have just walked right off the set of Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless. Don is the square still trapped in the idealized 50s of an Archie comic, while her friend Brian is a scruffy beatnik.
The cultures clash in Charretier’s rendering of the trio attending a jazz club, as Don is overshadowed by Joan and Brian dancing with a crowd. Charretier utilizes a whole page with the dancing duo taking most of the page, with smaller panels of Don waiting with a polite smile. He seems to be interested in watching Joan, taking in the cultural difference here. Charretier simplifies Don’s expression, giving a primarily blank face barring glasses and a smile (a small detail requiring zooming into the page to see). It boils Don down to a stock character in the charade of Joan’s love loop, playing on his stereotype to allow the audience to impose their assumptions just like Joan.
Later in the issue, Charretier will employ a similar technique as Joan is dragged through the wedding planning process. While the page is broken down into a more traditional layout with defined panels, the concept of shallowing Joan occurs as Don did on the above page. Instead of allowing for assumptions to be imposed, the art direction here showcases Joan’s unwillingness to fight against the flow of her current loop. She’s resigned to this course and becomes a spectator in her life. She accepts the convenience of this quick wedding and, by extension, the comfort that Don brings to her life. Like her various lives, Joan is surrounded by beautiful things and a cast of characters that seem happy for her, but they all ring hollow, no matter how much detail Charretier ascribes to them in the art.
Just like Charretier’s art, the coloring on display is consistent with what’s come before for the most part, but one sequence feels unique. When Joan flees her wedding and meets the Cowboy, the sky and background are bathed in a pinkish hue (seen at the top of this review) that evokes a setting sun. Rather than signifying a sense of wonder, the coloring choice reads as ominous, as though it should be signaling the violent action that will reset Joan’s loop. When the shots don’t come, Joan returns to her wedding and the typical color palette; there’s a sense that something’s changed this time. Hollingsworth establishes a threshold of color in this sequence, and Joan has crossed it, returning to what seems familiar but is now the unknown.
Love Everlasting #6 is a striking pivot as it begins the book’s second arc, changing the rules of the story to deliver unexpected beats. King’s script manages to subvert expectations in a natural way that ensures the looping nature of the story doesn’t wear on the audience. Charretier employs an oscillating level of detail to play on the action/inaction of the characters in this issue, depending on their role in the overarching formula of Joan’s love loops. Hollingsworth then taps into that subversion of the norm by constructing color thresholds that divide the expected from the unexpected. This issue alone may not win over new readers but is a great reinvention that combats any doubts existing readers may have about the structure of the series.
Love Everlasting #6: ‘What a beautiful wedding’
- 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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