Signed up the 28/03/2017
Afar is one of the few young graphic novels in the market, and it has made me wish there were more of these to dive into. The book follows young siblings Boetema (older sister) and Inotu (the little brother) as they try navigate life through a post-industrial desert wasteland, when their parents leave them behind in an odd city to find work so they're able to provide for them and sustain the family.
The youngest of the pair finds himself in trouble not too long after their parents depart, and the only way the two figure that they can protect themselves from the harm coming their way is to pack up and run away into yet another city to start a new home for themselves until their parents can come back to look after and protect them.
The narrative is thickened and made interesting by both Boetema and Inotu's strange and engaging story arcs. So we're in fact pulled into following three storylines in one; each of the siblings' individual plots, and the establishing plot, which is temporarily orphaned kids trying to survive a famine-stricken desert.
Boetema discovers that she has the strange ability to project to other spheres of the universe. When she visits these odd planets and galaxies, her consciousness and memory somehow downloads into one of the bodies of the creatures existing in that particular place. Each time she goes to sleep, her spirit drifts to a random planet and embeds itself into a random being. After a while of this happening, Boetema finds herself in the body of Lindu, a human-like amphibian specie. She leads Lindu into danger just before she wakes up. Her journey centres around finding her way back into Lindu's body and undoing her wrongs so that she may protect this innocent alien girl and her friends that she's put in danger.
Even though his is not as intriguing, we follow Inotu's story through a progression of letters he writes to a best friend he has lost due to his parents constantly moving from city to city to make ends meet. In the beginning we find that Inotu is illiterate and is only just learning to read and write, as the story moves forward, we see him evolve into a more articulate writer and an eloquent storyteller. He also grows into a good-hearted young man who learns of the power of love and team-work, even through his dire, unfair circumstances of being poor and left to fend for himself with just his sister around.
The fantastical adventure story of these two siblings is quite random and something you don't always find when searching for new reads, whether you're into comic books or graphic novels of any kind. Their journey around cities, trying to find a home in a place that's aged and ruined is almost biblical. The aesthetic and the setting resembles a B.C. Middle East, with East African symbolism and characters. It's quite clear that the author here wanted to create a completely new world, that's rarely described in any other works of fiction. It's almost an acid-trip kind of experience, flipping through the pages of this novel. The architecture, the garments and overall aesthetic is completely original and mind-blowing.
When we're taken into Boetema's dreams and ejected into far-away galaxies, we're afforded some of the most imaginative art possible. The linework and coloring provided through the graphic worksare simply masterful. The artist bursts with excitement as he creates the various creatures, bending creativity itself as we know it and turning it on its head. Visually, the possibilities are endless, we're afforded a new awe-inspiring experience on each page. The read becomes even more enganging and an absolute pleasure because of the detail in the drawings and paintings. Each panel is crafted with such delicacy and care that the story could be told without any narration or dialogue and it would still work.
Ultimately, we're taken on two reviting adventures both in the real world and in Boetema's projections. In the real world we find two lonely, vulnerable kids going from place to place, parent-less, trying to make ends meet and keep safe in an environment that isn't accomodating. In the fantastical worlds Boetema visits, we're offered a look at how other civilations might be existing in parallel with earth. Even though these may places may seem more fun to experience, we find that each world has its own ailings. From being plagued with wars and slavery, other worlds are not something to aspire to in an effort to abandon a ruined earth.
Writer Leila Del Duca and illustrator Kit Seaton have outdone themselves! This graphic novel is full of wonders, and is an absolute arresting read.
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