Take two (gay) strangers who meet by complete accident, a trip across the USA, add witty writing as well as engaging art, and what do you get? A webcomic I greatly enjoy. TJ And Amal is written and drawn by E.K. Weaver, who rather impresses me with her debut comic. The publication of the first collection of the webcomic gives me a good opportunity to write a few words about it.
Amal is a seemingly reserved Med student in his mid-twenties who at the beginning of the story has just come out to his parents, breaking off an arranged marriage and getting disowned in the process. After a heavy night of drinking, he finds himself with a new acquaintance, the laid-back TJ, who announces that they’ve agreed to cross the USA coast-to-coast together (Amal drives, TJ pays for everything). For personal reasons I won’t divulge here (but let’s say his parents aren’t his only family), Amal decides to make good on an agreement he doesn’t remember, and thus begins another tale in that honored American genre, the road trip.
Not much happens during this first third of the story (two more collections are planned), as the two men begin their long journey and discover they can happily spend hours on end alone together, chatting in a car. Their personalities are as different as can be, but the author completely succeeds in making us believe that these two could become fast friends. Her portrayal of the two men is delicate and understated, a gentle humor pervading their at first tentative conversations.
As often is the case with a comic, it was the art which first drew me to the work. Weaver obviously puts as much care into drawing human bodies, motel rooms or natural settings, and though her realistic and highly observant style already looked good on the screen, it’s even more enchanting on paper. The nuances she manages to evoke with the blacks, whites and grays of her pages deserved to be put to print (in fact, she reworked her art for the book) and make the collection far more than a vanity project.
While Amal and TJ get friendly quite quickly, a sexual tension begin to raise its head little by little. This will be more than addressed in the continuation of the story, but it was very nice to see E.K.Weaver taking her time to go there–or if you prefer, this webcomic is not wank work, despite not shying from showing cute, undressed guys.
This 128-page book can be bought from the author’s website, where you can follow the rest of the story, which is still being serialized.