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June 19, 2010: I've launched a new version of this website as a Wordpress blog. This version won't be updated anymore.
If you don't see the images of a review, it means that I've transferred it to the new site.

12 Days

A 190-page one-shot, Tokyopop, 2006.
Available from Amazon.

Category: homophobia, lesbian, slice-of-life.

Author(s): June Kim.

Nick and Jackie

Jackie's lover Noah is dead. And so, she decides to drink/eat/ingest over 12 days the ashes of the woman she loved, thinking that it will help in dealing with her pain. A rather unusual premise for a very subdued book.
There are only two main characters in the book (though we also meet Noah's parents): Jackie, and Nick, Noah's younger half-brother, who knew about the relationship between the two women. Nick is the one who brings his sister's ashes to her ex-lover. "Ex", because when she died, Noah had just gotten married (with a man, this is not Massachusetts), and Jackie was already in mourning, but only for her relationship. Why had Noah left Jackie? Did she really love the man she married? Was she under pressure from her father? Those questions, as well as Jackie's own interrogations, are at the heart of the book.
June Kim's work was unknown to me so far, but she's obviously a talented artist. Her book, part of a "global manga" collection from TokyoPop (meaning, in a manga style, but by non-Japanese artists), is drawn very realistically, with a storytelling which is full of ellipses and varied layouts. The whole book is a blend of present-day scenes and flashbacks, and seems to partly function as memory does, with objects or circumstances triggering a recollection. It's not always easy to follow, and a rereading brings a better understanding, but coupled with the refusal of the artist to use any of the usual visual codes (well, "usual" in Western comics) for flashbacks, it creates an interesting reading experience.
Another interesting choice is that the reader (well, this particular reader at least) feels that the characters are kept at an emotional distance--there is also a clear refusal of melodrama, but that's not the reason why I write that. Jackie especially is not an extrovert, and this makes her rare moments of outbursts that much striking. Having lost Noah twice, she seems to be adrift, with Nick as her only, temporary moorings.
12 Days is a very original book, more reminiscent in its tone and storytelling of Kiriko Nananan's work than of any Western artist's I can think of.

Noah and Jackie
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