By Joe Glass
It has been a hard year.
The constant cycle of celebrity deaths, many of them heroes and icons of stage, screen and music. Brexit. Trump. The things that divide has have felt stronger than ever, pushing the world down and apart when now, in 2016, the 21st Century, we should all be closer together. This year, indeed, has been hard.
And one of the hardest moments was June 12th.
49 people gunned down. 49 lives ended far too soon. 49 futures cut short. Because of hate. Because of fear.
Much was made of the reasons the gunman walked into the Pulse nightclub in Orlando that evening. Many have tried to make sense of it. The victims that survived shared their stories. But the outpouring of well wishes and good deeds that came afterwards helped remind us of the light that can shine through the darkness.
Love is Love, spearheaded by Marc Andreyko and released by IDW/DC today, manages to capture this light and hope, and it is powerful, poignant and heartbreaking in equal measure.
The stories range from messages from the night itself, to wishes and hopes; there are biographical tales as well as fictional; there are quiet, small moments and bigger, worldview ones; realism, esoteric and fantastical.
They range from looking at the need for common sense gun laws, messages on the ingrained homophobia of our culture, the need for representation and how much it has changed over the years. And how, even now, there is still much work to be done.
And most importantly, there are plenty of stories honouring the victims of that tragic night.
I had to put this book down several times. I had to come back and forth to this review. This book is hard too, but in a meaningful way. A worthwhile way.
There are some strong emotional pieces in there: the entries from Kaare Andrews, Steve Foxe, Sina Grace, and Marc Guggenheim, Brent Peebles, Chris Sotomayor and John Rashell are particularly tear-inducing. And it's wonderful to see work from out and proud LGBTQ+ creators like James Tynion IV, Justin Hall and Phil Jimenez standing alongside that of straight creators like Mark Millar, Gail Simone, Brian Bendis and Scott Snyder together in a shared message of understanding and love.
Dan Didio includes a wonderful story, in particular. It's one of the many stories involving existing fictional characters, namely Renee Montoya, Maggie Sawyer, Apollo, Midnighter and Extrano. It's wonderful as it is incredibly metatextual and layered for a two page story, managing to successfully talk about the changes in freedoms and lifestyle over the years and also the level of representation in comics. It's lighter, but poignant still.
Reading the book, I broke down in tears several times. The book brings up some of the hardest things that came up for me when that night happened. The things I dread and worry about when I am at my lowest. But it also has a powerful message of hope, of connection, of reminding us to come together.
It's a message that is needed now more than ever.
Because this year has been hard. And Love is Love does an incredible feat of making it a little easier.