I was cleaning up old online reader copy links the other day and I said, “Self, let’s try The Horizon Volume one.” So, I did (though it is currently available). Of course, I did not realize it was volume one (I have a habit of doing that) and just thought it was around 300 pages of a dystopian artistic graphic novel. And it was. Only the ending has a cliffhanger ending that made me say, “WHAT THE FLAMING MONKEY TOOTS??” How did that happen? I mean I know how that happened, but how?!?! And probably more accurately, why. I needed more! It turned out that I just happened to need to pick up a book from the library that night, and I said to the gal behind the desk, “I need volume two.” So, I have a request for it, and hopefully it is sooner than later, as there is also volume three (which came out December 2023)..
The potential for the book was very strong. Jh (or jh; JH) made a story that sounded good. You know by reading the description it is not going to be a sweet Boy meets Girl, with love at first sight. It is, “Who and what are you? And are you real and/or alive?” at first sight. Boy has seen his mother and the adults around him murdered (SPOILER: Really grotesque and heartbreaking scene of Boy with his mothers body happens), and he starts walking, eventually finding shelter in an abandoned school bus. He wakes to find Girl has also slept there and they are both confused, scared, and yet cling to each other. The two go off on to… wherever they find themselves. All the while Boy is a philosopher talking about life, death, why we try to hold on (mostly to himself and us the reader). Trying to stay alive in a world that is torn apart by war. These scenes are emotional and disturbing. Everything is created in a minimalism format. So what is there is important. The fact that the Boy and Girl are running, holding hands, as Zombie-Faced people are murdered in front of them by the soldiers is horrific and oddly hysterical. It feels unreal, yet it is all too real for our characters.
However, the end takes a turn out of left field and ends up on the moon. I am not sure the meaning of the ending (it is left open), but it might be the worst and best way to end things. The artwork’s minimalistic format is set up so what you don’t see is as important as what you do see. As I said, everything is minimalistic, making sure nothing is wasted. Every line, letter and piece of color (or mostly lack of color) is very important. Eyes of people are very in their own way, their own characters and themes. We see normal expressions (pity, sadness, fear) but also all of this done in extreme, and perhaps over the edge into madness. The idea of humanity and the lack of humanity in the middle of war is obvious, but perhaps we have to make up our own conclusions about the meaning(s). Sure, war and killing are bad, but there feels like there is more to things, that there is something deeper we are meant to find as our characters find it. It is not an easy read, but deceptively easy to fly through. I think multiple reads are needed and I wish I had all three volumes at once. Needless to say, there is violence, attempted assault, and war images. These and even the way one character eats are among some of the possible trigger images. Not for young or sensitive readers.
Abigail Blackman is the letterer.