If there is one word that can sum up the work of Tom King, it would be “deconstruction”. Taking cues from Alan Moore, though not as cynical, King is always interested in pulling apart his fictional heroes, usually through a flawed, psychological lens. The Moore comparison definitely looms large with his DC titles, such as Mister Miracle and Strange Adventures, both of which domesticate the titular characters and tell stories that blur the line between what’s real and what isn’t. King applies his usual bag of tricks to his Image Comics debut, Love Everlasting.
For several reasons, this looks nothing like King’s previous work, not least due to it being his first collaboration with artist Elsa Charretier. The story centers on Joan Peterson, trapped in an endless, terrifying cycle of “romance” as every time she falls in love and gets proposed to, she’s torn from her world and thrust into another tear-soaked tale.
As shown in his Mister Miracle and Batman runs, King can write romance and isn’t afraid to get schmaltzy in showing how his characters show their love for each other. However, despite the instances of numerous men expressing their love towards our heroine, that uplifting resolution never comes true, which is the point of Love Everlasting – and also perhaps the problem.
The first issue is initially promising: Joan jumps from one time period to the next, whether it is the 1950s where she is a secretary or in the 1960s as a hippie, and she is losing her grip with reality that seems to be built on the romances with these men. While a mysterious cowboy appears as a recurring antagonist who takes action when the romances quickly turn sour, this usually happens towards the end of the issue, which is basically the typical romance narrative that you have seen many times.
That is not to say that some of the single issues are not well-written – the librarian-centric #3 or the WW1-based #4 are the standouts on having the best character development, but overall, King isn’t being nuanced with the numerous love stories. As for the numerous time jumps, they fall into a typical problem that the writer falls of being too clever, like in Batman/Catwoman. The final issue certainly delves more into the psychology of Joan, but questions are still raised as we don’t how long this series is going for.
The one true saving grace is the art by Elsa Charretier, best known for her work on another Image title, November, written by Matt Fraction. With a style that evokes the late, great Darwyn Cooke, Charretier’s retro character work fits nicely into all the historical periods, and the climactic moments where the characters get bloodied up. There is joy to be had with the various splash pages that evoke the covers of ’50s/’60s romance novels.
Tom King’s attempt to deconstruct the old-fashioned romance tales has the spark of an interesting idea, but the overall narrative lacks nuance and is unclear.
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