An LGBTQIA+ Love Anthology.
While all anthologies can be hit and miss, comics collections tend to be more so, I feel, as it’s a more complicated medium to synthesize into one cohesive collection. This is, ofc, due in large part to the visual aspect making it immediately obvious if things aren’t meshing.
Thematically, this book works, even if the overall beats of the collection tend to land a little strangely. The title opener by Brent Fisher, Elisa Romboli and Ariana Maher is an upbeat tale of courage and love, and is the most polished, art-wise. This is immediately followed by the sweet Claddagh by Julia Paiewonsky and Alex Putprush, an affecting slice-of-life comic about falling in love.
The next story, Tethered, is a lot of people and a lot of pages to tell not very much at all. Fortunately, the volume picks up again with Lilian Hochwender and Gabe Martini’s Sea Change, telling the story of a young sailor who falls overboard during a storm and finds terror and transformation within the ocean depths. Letting It Fall by Priya Saxena and Jenny Fleming is really great until the awkwardly underwhelming art of the last full-page panel, which does a disservice to the rest of the story and its delightfully retro illustrations.
Long Away by Tillie Bridges, Susan Bridges and Richard Fairgray was one of my favorite stories here, as a young woman travels back in time to meet the father who died way too soon. All That Glitters by Michele Abounader and Tench uses very few words to elegantly describe how a struggling nonbinary person gets some great advice from a drag queen.
Things get darker with the next story, Hollow Wolf by Nathan Long. It’s a really well-designed comic about sexual assault and healing. Extra Pages by Brent Fisher and Rachel Distler is a surprisingly, almost jarringly, upbeat follow-up. I really enjoyed the depiction of a lifelong friendship between a gay man and a straight dude tho.
Leaves by Christa Harader and Katie Hicks was an oddly generic comic about self-esteem. I feel bad saying that Ever More Myself by Kaj E Kunstmann was unnecessarily whiny, but I just didn’t understand why it was so difficult to stop presenting as femme when they clearly hated people thinking they were female. It felt like too many details were omitted, sacrificing sense for space, especially compared to All That Glitters. And the next story, Both Sides by Brittany “Briggsy” Gonzalez and Elizabeth Malette, was just exasperating, a messy breakup told messily, with a grammatically nonsensical closing sentence.
Things get better with Drawing Lines || Posting Signs by Christie Porter and Alina Wahab, which talks about deprogramming from a childhood of religious hatred. An Open Letter attempts to bookend The Color Of Always and doesn’t quite succeed. The concept art at the end is a nice extra, but feels a bit like padding, especially given the preponderance of filler pages stating Always in rainbow letters throughout the volume.
Overall, this is a quick, affirming read whose priority seems to be variety over cohesion. And that’s understandable given the spectrum of LGBTQIA+ experiences. I do think that a better sequencing would have made the stories more impactful, either alternating light with dark or following an emotional arc. But it’s great to see a collection affirming LGBTQIA+ love, in all its grime and glory.
The Color Of Always edited by Brent Fisher & Michele Abounader was published June 6 2023 by Wave Blue World and is available from all good booksellers, including