REVIEW: Anything That Loves (Northwest Press)

Anything-That-LovesAnything That Loves is the latest offering from the really-rather-sterling Northwest Press, purveyors of fine LGBT-related comics. I came across them on kickstarter, pledged, and immediately forgot I had done any such thing, which made it’s arrival on my doorstep (accompanied by the bonus book The Lavender Menace) a bit of a surprise.

The theme of the book is ‘bisexuality’–it’s a vast collection of comics address bisexuality and the various iterations of the issues surrounding it. Like people’s disbelief in its existence. Or the double-confusion of realising late on in life that you might actually have *some* feelings towards the opposite sex after all. Now, I’ve been known in the past to state that ‘bisexuality isn’t real.’ This book essentially smacked me round the face: that’s me told.

The problem is, it felt a little bit like that was the point of the book. The possible downside to curating such a large collection is, inevitably, quite a few of the stories retread around the same material. It’s an odd sort of criticism, because these kinds of stories and characters are something I’ve seen practically nowhere else, yet exist in a giant clamouring crowd in this one book. Let that not be taken too negatively however: I’d much rather there were too many people talking than none at all. In fact, this entire paragraph is a little bit like a starving man complaining at being laid on a feast: I apologise profusely. Bisexuality, and the rest of the grey areas of sexuality in Anything That Loves, are criminally under-represented anywhere. Hallelujah for this book.

A few of the strips have a preachy, ‘educational’ feel to them, but there are still some glowing standouts (which have sent me off searching for other comics to read, which is always a positive.) It starts strong with a hilarious explanation of the irrationality of biphobia with a metaphor about imaginary tacos from Kate Leth, and is followed by an equally beautiful Game-of-Life story from Agnes Ozaja. Other highlights include the so-smart-its-obvious fish fable from Ashley Cook & Caroline Hobbs, autiobiographical script from Erica Moen (so glad I’ve discovered her), a story about cross-dressing in a small-minded comic-book world from Jason Thompson (also my favourite art design as well) and the hilarious Minnie strips from Margreet de Heer. Some sparkly love-points to the art of The Walk by Randall Kirby, although I didn’t love the story, and to the horizon-expanding education of the rubber-lover story by Powflip.

At best Anything That Loves is smart, funny and educational, and both empowering and capable of concealing the political tub its thumping beneath a great story. Even in its worst moments, it’s a solid strip whose only crime is not standing out from the pack. Which, for an anthology with so many component parts, is a pretty good result. Recommended, and I look forward to reading more of their stuff.

Plus, now I get to read Lavender Menace which has so many elements of my wheelhouse (gays, superheroes, Tom Cardamone, Hal Duncan) that it might as well have been written for me.

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