August Issue #1 story by Fallen Angel T. J. G. (with illustrations by Sonalli Andrews)
A farm girl, her pick-up, a day in the life, a life that gets horribly disrupted, the frustrating sense that there’s something more, something I’m missing. That sums up my experience of title character and book August.
There are several things I like about this book.
1, that it exists. It’s dope to see a local writer taking a shot at a graphic novel. I maintain a data base of books by Antiguans and Barbuda at the Wadadli Pen blog and, while there are a number of picture books (including one by this author), this is the first (adult) graphic novel I’ve come across by a local. I like that we keep pushing our boundaries – and that this is an author, creative person really, who in lit arts, music, and fashion is always pushing, investing in herself and making moves independently.
2, that it centres a black woman with locs which on the surface of it seems (visually at least) to be an avatar for the author (Tameka Jarvis George, whom I know personally) herself from the locs right down to her wardrobe, but perhaps more essentially her earthiness and independent spark.
3, the art work; the art is nicely done, capturing people, Black people specifically, in a way that makes their personalities come through…and, as seen above, their sexiness.
4, it’s cool to see one of our cultural spaces captured in an adult comic book…I don’t know, it just tickled me.
That’s the market square in Antigua which features a statue of national hero Sir V. C. Bird Senior – the country’s first everything as far as politics goes.
5, that it deals with adult themes and sex (and unfortunately, sexual violence) which (picture book aside) is consistent with this author’s brand – her books and stories aren’t erotica but they don’t shy away from the erotic; that remains true here (even if the most appealing sexual partner in the book – as revealed during one of the more entertaining exchanges between August and her girl Marley – comes with batteries).
6, while it doesn’t pass the Bedchel-Wallace test which requires that there be female interaction about something other than a man, with both women being named, because much of their interaction is about August’s need to get out and get a man, the interaction between the two women is one of the book’s better elements (the natural humour between them, for instance); and there’s a way to look at those interactions as being less about getting some and more about getting your life (i.e. don’t stop living even if Marley’s definition of what living looks like is very narrowly specific to getting some)
7, the character moments like August’s visit to the grave of her mother and grandfather and the image of her suggested in the mind (striking a poignant emotional note) and seen on the page of her barefoot with her shoes dangling from her hand
The things that I think are on the line now has to do with the book’s treatment of sexual violence. There are two instances, and its attempts to tackle those issues is a plus; the execution, though, didn’t quite stick the landing. One *spoiler alert* was intimidation by a male client and one graphic rape by another man – which hit like wham (!) and might prove triggering for some. The book does have a parental advisory and, arguably, that’s how it happens when it happens, it blindsides you, so the shock of it is likely intentional. But something about it felt rushed and shallow (cartoonish), and the shift from sexy to sexual assault was jarring.
2, There are a few times, this being one of them, where what’s happening is not clear neither visually nor narratively (and there’re at least a couple of pages where the visuals inexplicably drop out altogether); this lack of clarity is there in the action sequences generally – the ones where onomatopoeia is meant to heighten the action but just makes it vague
3, Adding to the confusion is the formatting of the speech bubbles which don’t work with the flow of the eye when reading (left to right, top to bottom); as laid out, sometimes (too often) I’m reading someone’s response before what they were responding to
4, there is anticipation throughout, which is good, but the pacing is off just a tad (it’s a slow build) and the pay off unsatisfying (I understand that at less than 40 pages, it’s meant to be just the first part of a series, but, as written it feels less like the end of a chapter, and frustratingly incomplete
5, there is a hint that there’s a supernatural element but that’s mostly from the synopsis, the book itself doesn’t quite drive this home effectively in my opinion, though it does suggest it, maybe (I’m not sure)
6, there are times when the images don’t quite work as the reader needs them to to understand what’s happening, and, as noted, disappear altogether (perhaps for dramatic effect, but still); and there are images that feel like filler (point being, the book could have done with some more editing for visual clarity and coherency)
So overall, the story caught my interest because of the art and set up, but didn’t finish as strong as I’d hoped. It takes too long for something to happen, rushes through what happens when it does, and then cuts to ‘to be continued’ leaving the reader potentially uncommitted (and, as I’m not sure there is yet a part 2, with no way to read on even if they were). p.s. you may be skeptical after all that (I do try to be as honest as possible especially if I like the book enough to so do) but I would read a part 2.
Full disclosure: Review is based on an ARC provided by the author.