Released by: Image Comics
Released on: March 29th, 2017
Written by: Leila Del Duca
Illustrated by: Kit Seaton
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Leila Del Duca, artist and co-creator of SHUTTER with Joe Keatinge, is adding writer to her resume with AFAR. Kit has published web comics, such as The Black Bull of Norroway, and this is her first graphic novel with Image.
AFAR takes place in a post-industrial desert wasteland, possibly a century or two after an apocalyptic event, where remnants of (still working) advanced technology are incorporated sparsely into everyday lives. The feeling is that the society does not have the capacity to recreate the old tech and must rely on maintaining as much as possible until failure. Think Mad Max with a less dismal tone.
That is just the backdrop for a story that, at its core, revolves around brother, Inotu, and sister, Boetema, and how they support each other when faced with a familial challenge. Their parents go off to work as salt shepherds to earn some money to keep the family afloat and leave Boetema and Inotu to look after themselves while they are away. What a salt shepherd is exactly, I am not sure, and even though the parents are delivering the news with smiling faces, the undertone does not make the endeavor sound all that desirable.
Prior to the parents leaving, a personal story-line begins to develop where Boetema starts having dreams of visiting wildly alien worlds and supplanting her consciousness into beings that are familiar in some ways but definitely falling into the camp of the uncanny. At first, Boetema dismisses these dreams as nothing more than disorienting, and keeps this information hidden, but she becomes concerned when they keep recurring every time she falls asleep.
Boetema's story-line starts to intersect with the main plot after she begins to accept that her dreams may be something more than dreams and she visits a world and inadvertently gets an individual that is important to her 'host' hurt. The guilt weighs on her and she feels the need to right the wrong. Meanwhile, Inotu gets caught up in a wrong-place-at-the-wrong time scenario, and after the parents are gone a few days, the siblings are forced to flee and work together to make their own way across a perilous desert to another city. Of course, there is more to the story, but I would rather you find the rest out for yourself.
I would be doing a disservice to Kit Seaton if I did not mention that I thought the artwork and coloring are top notch. They set a dreamy mood and are as much part of conveying the story as the writing itself.
While no individual aspect is especially groundbreaking, and some segments feel a little rushed, the narrative impressively weaves otherworldly mythology, glimpses at new worlds/cultures and everyday challenges into a tale that is more than the sum of its parts. The greatest aspects of the book are the believable characters and authentic relationship between brother and sister that shows the two deeply care for each other. I highly recommend checking out AFAR.