Slow Storm

Created by: Danica Novgorodoff

Published by: First Second

ISBN: 1596432500 (Amazon)

Pages: 176

Genre: Drama

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Slow Storm

Danica Novgorodoff has created something that was worth picking up but maybe not worth picking up instead of something else. Slow Storm is a pretty even blend of good and bad elements—and this elemental counterpoint so strongly governs the book that it may not be worth speaking about the short work in any other terms.

The art Novgorodoff employs is a strange sort of bugbear in that it represents both the best and the worst the book has to offer. To Slow Storm‘s benefit, the painted colours set both mood and stage wonderfully. Novgorodoff’s colour sense is, especially in the land- and skyscapes, extraordinary. To her credit, she uses the art to convey certain non-abstracts in abstracted ways—giving the men who ferry immigrants over the border surreptitiously the literal heads of coyotes and having the corrupted immigration police ride around on the backs of pigs. Her penwork is loose and gives the story a fluid sense and demonstrates through immediate, visual terms the lack of rigidity that her story will hold throughout.

Negatively, however, her loose character-work prevents her protagonists and their supporting cast from being able to express the things the reader (and Novgorodoff’s story) requires of them. It can often be difficult to get a visual sense of why characters are speaking the words they offer. Further, apart from some special moments (like Ursa’s car being enveloped in radio static), there seems little sense of visual storytelling. I like that Novgorodoff is escaping traditional cartooning here. I just wish it actually worked better than it did.

The writing is lean and the dialogue short. And while silence can convey moments of great depth, here they only serve to alienate the reader. It is fine that Novgorodoff doesn’t delve too deeply into the animosity she feels toward her brother (that stuff rarely comes about in any way that a book like this could explain without sounding pat), but there is so much ambient chatter that any movements within characters are lost. Too little is said so that when characters do speak, it is often unclear what they are trying to communicate. It’s as if the world of Novgorodoff’s Kentucky is verbally delinquent. And maybe that’s how the real world of Kentucky really is, but if Novgorodoff wants to bring me in as a tourist, the experience will be easier swallowed if certain communicative dissonances are soft-peddled.

Storywise, the book’s strong point is Rafael’s immigrant experience. Anything that doesn’t involve him in Chiapas or him crossing the border into America falls rather flat. This may be because the verbal and visual inadequacies already mentioned hinder the storytelling or it may be simply that Ursa’s story is dull. It’s never quite apparent what the significance of tornadoes and horses are beyond the facile explanation given near the story’s climax (was there a climax?).

Basically, from a rather stilted conversation, we come across the idea that if you are afraid, the storms of life will destroy you—because life, like horses, can sense your fear and your fear terrifies. Or something like that. Though why that is important to the story is unclear. If Ursa fears anything that took place before the barn fire, it’s unclear what it is. There is some sort of rejection in her of the feminine ideal, a rejection perhaps spurred by her own physical proportions, and that clearly causes some anguish (not that we can see it in her character, only in her actions), but beyond that?

At the end of the day, I’m glad I got the chance to look at Slow Storm‘s art and visual choices, but I’m sad that I spent a whole lunch hour doing it. And isn’t that just the saddest thing to say about a book that clearly took its author a fair amount of time to produce?

 

Good Ok Bad features reviews of comics, graphic novels, manga, et cetera using a rare and auspicious three-star rating system. Point systems are notoriously fiddly, so here it's been pared down to three simple possibilities:

3 Stars = Good
2 Stars = Ok
1 Star = Bad

I am Seth T. Hahne and these are my reviews.

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