A very fascinating and magical graphic novel that expertly and easily parts back and forth between the serious and senseless flowed into my life recently. And very early on I realized why I experienced joy with this volume. It reminded me of Will Eisner meeting Manga.
The story is called August Moon and it is written and drawn by talented newcomer Diana Thung. She tells the tale of a small town called Calico who are frequently visited by the Soul Fire, orbs of light that are rumoured to be dead ancestors. What they really are, and how the beings behind them are being hunted by some mysterious corporation, is part of the backbone of this story. These benevolent creatures, and their leader, the boy who might be from the moon, met a young girl. She is in town with her dad, who is investigating these creatures, and running afoul of the evil men in suits. Together they strive to save the day, and help nurture the healing process for all.
What struck my sensibilities immediately was how deftly Thung melds two styles together so seamlessly.
Providing a Manga drawing style for the characters and some set designs gives the story a lyrical spark that packs quite a lot of emotions into each panel. Now I am extremely limited in my Manga and Anime reading, but the expressiveness of the artform always struck me as a bonus, and Thung has used her special strength in this area quite well here. Seeing the myriad facial pains and joys the young girl Fiona goes through speaks volumes about the character and her dealing with immense inner turmoil. Fiona needs a hug sometimes, and we know this thanks to Thung’s talents.
The second style she draws upon is the storytelling mastery of Will Eisner. The late comics genius would make pages sing his wonderful song and bend the rules of the genre to suit his message. Cityscapes, buildings, and living spaces of all types would integrate into the narrative and the characters. Very early on the town of Calico and it’s numerous denizens are blended together and pulled the story into a whole. Thung provides a splash page, lovingly sprinkled with several smaller inset panels, that sets up the stage of the where and the who of our local scene. We now know so much so quickly, which allows her to plunge into the meat of her story. The girl Fiona coming to town and meeting the supposed moon child, the boy named Jaden.
Early on in August Moon, we find out the awful truth that Fiona’s mother had passed away some years prior, and that her father is emotionally shut off from that reality. The subtext here, of learning and processing grief and loss, is played out against the larger story of saving the magic. We know what the outcome of both stories will be, but our senses and feelings still want and need to see these resolutions. And as the stories progress and intertwine, we are treated to complete and almost totally satisfactorily endings. I say almost because of two dangling plot threads which leaves the door open a crack for a possible sequel. One thread does not bother me, but the other causes some melancholy. When you finish August Moon, you will know which part I am going on about.
August Moon has the unique position of blending two wonderful old styles, all to create a backdrop for a fascinating character arc punctuated with action packed adventures. Ideas and concepts for all, equaling to the wonderful read of August Moon.
P.S. August Moon is copyright 2012 to Diana Thung. It is a 320 page Hardcover graphic novel published by Top Shelf Productions. Its official release date was Tuesday November 6th, 2012, but it already on sale now. My review was based on an Advance Readers Copy released through NetGalley.