by Gwen Taylor
How on Earth do I put these feelings into words? I’m sitting here just after finishing Love is Love and I have been utterly floored. 2016 has been an awful year all around, a year where hatred and intolerance appear to have won, and love has been firmly pushed into a corner. One of the most horrific events of the year took place in June at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. One person took the lives of 49 others who were celebrating their individuality and love in what had always been regarded as a safe space.
Love is Love is an anthology of responses to the shooting published by IDW Publishing and supported by DCComics to raise money for Equality Florida. It contains 144 pages of beautiful stories designed to celebrate love following a tragic event. Each piece is 1-2 pages long and all are incredibly powerful; the sheer number of contributors demonstrates how this horrific event was felt by everyone.
Some pieces do resonate more strongly than others. Those contributors with a personal connection to the LGBTQ+ community certainly have a lot more to say. I particularly enjoyed and felt closer to the exploration of the conflict between being out and proud and there for your community, versus the fear that you and your friends’ lives could be in danger because of who you love. Some of the stronger stories are those of parents explaining what has happened to children.
Bringing the event to a child’s perspective highlights how illogical it is to destroy lives because of who they love. The piece by Eddie Gorodetsky and Jesus Iglesias is particularly powerful, telling the story of a family facing difficult decisions in the face of loss and about remaining strong when it feels like the world is against you.
Interspersed between personal stories are pieces with our favourite comic characters. Originally I thought this was a little tacky, but after re-reading the collection I think it is perfect. In difficult times so many of us turn to these characters for support and an escape and it creates a reaffirming message. Seeing recognisable characters struggling to process the horrific events doesn’t take it away from reality, it brings it back to you. When the great Batman admits that even he is at breaking point in the face of hatred but decides to fight anyway, that passion resonates out of the page. It reminds us that we don’t always have to be strong, it’s ok to feel pain, and that compassion is always the answer.
The huge variety in the styles and media of responses could have created a disjointed experience for a reader but in reality it comes across as a celebration of individuality in the face of conformity. Hundreds of individual stories jump off the page and each is very personal but they still manage to build a united message. These people, these writers, these artists, have all felt the shock, devastation and heartbreak following the shootings and their empathy and love is well conveyed. This is honestly quite a difficult collection to read and I admit to having to occasionally put it aside for a while whilst I collect my thoughts together and process the raw emotions the authors are working with.
It’s difficult to put the feelings Love is Love provokes into words. It’s a message of hope after tragedy. A reminder to keep on fighting and not to let hatred into your heart, to be tolerant and accepting in difficult times. The electric collection of styles and approaches are exactly what is needed for Love is Love. Individuals coming together to support one powerful message: Love is Love is Love.
All images © IDW Publishing