Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Slow Storm, by Danica Novgorodoff

My second graphic novel write up, and it's definitely an impressive one. I was struck by how fleeting the story is and how it managed (with very few words) to create an atmosphere of eerie suspense, exhibiting the struggles and the social and emotional displacement of both of the characters.

The narrative is not so much a whole story in the conventional sense, but a series of moments in time. Ursula, a small town fire-fighter has made a few bad decisions and is struggling to understand her place in life. The slow storm of the title, oppressive and constant throughout the narrative, starts a barn fire on a Kentucky horse farm, causing her life to cross paths with that of an illegal Mexican immigrant for the briefest of spells. The storm changes their lives in different ways, that we can see, but the pair go their separate ways before the consequences can become clear to the reader.

The most immediately striking thing about this graphic novel is its artwork. Brooding but subtle, Novgorodoff uses beautifully tonal watercolour washes and inky blackness to really make the reader understand the intricacies and the personality of a familiar landscape. She captures the movement and the grace of a location that is evidently very familiar and incredibly precious to her. Slow Storm is a very human novel that creates a sense of place effortlessly, both Ursula and Rafi are tied to their respective home territories in similar ways- both share spiritual connections to their homes and the landscape that they were raised in, but home is a source of pain for them both.

Homesickness and horses, saint and storms, displacement and disappointment are all brought together into a story that is both dramatic and mundane at the same time.  Though the events of the narrative are small individually, it's impossible to shake the idea that the handful of hours that Rafi and Ursula spent together will affect them for the rest of their lives.

Look at that artwork.  It's not fussy or overly stylised- it's simple and clean but it demands attention. 

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