This was a really nice surprise to read, as I had no real expectations going in besides being a follower of Jeremy Sorese’s illustrative work on Twitter. I knew he dealt with queer themes and I like his art style, so when I saw on Twitter that he’d done a graphic novel, I looked at the excerpt and decided to buy it. Pricey at US$30, but it is 432 pages and a mixture of illustration, comic panel style sections, and text, so you are getting a lot. And the hardcover edition is beautiful, with cover embossing and nice paper, so will make a great addition to any library.
As to the actual story, it’s set in the near-future and follows Colin and Paolo, who meet after a party where they accidentally switch jackets. Meet cute leads to romance, and the rest of the book follows their relationship and the other people in their lives. It sounds simple, but Jeremy Sorese has done a wonderful thing here with a very layered and thoughtful examination of queer community, community in general, parenting, romance, governmental structures, and what we make of our lives in the muddle of society. Their society is in the aftermath of the overthrow of the previous government (“The Authority”), which has left a lot of trauma behind, but the book doesn’t leave it as a black and white issue. The new government is doing similar things, there are still crimes and hurt people, and the best of intentions don’t always lead to good outcomes. The book is complicated and doesn’t provide easy answers. The characters don’t act perfectly and they hurt each other. The way Sorese shows how a traumatic event keeps echoing and affecting people in the present is really well done.
The art is beautiful and his use of line and inking is wonderful. The book is in black and white, which is used to great effect with contrast and a lot of scenes of people in the dark. Scenes where there is menace are genuinely scary because he perfectly captures the effect of someone unknown coming out of the dark suddenly. I also really liked that he draws a wide variety of bodies and faces, lots of interesting noses and wrinkles on people. He really brings a whole world to life here in complex detail and with nuanced characters. It left me with a lot to think about in terms of how I lead my life and relate to other people and the communities I’m in. Highly recommended to anyone who likes SF and/or books about community building and its issues.
The book contains scenes of a violent burglary, another scary robbery, murders, transphobia, and two people having PTSD flashbacks throughout, so warnings for those, as well as general authoritarian state violence (executions, surveillance). The trans woman is completely accepted by the important people in her life, but someone is transphobic about her to other people.