Charlot Kristensen’s debut book was released last year through Avery Hill Publishing and it just felt like the kind of book I was going to get something from.
After being together for two years Farai finally convinces her boyfriend Adam to introduce her to his parents and the weekend kicks-off with her having to run to catch the train to his home town. That’s the spark of initial tension between the two but the buzz of excitement for them both is tangible from the beginning albeit there’s a bit of worry behind Adam’s exterior.
Getting to meet the in-laws after such a long time feels like the ideal step for Farai as they can really begin building a life together but the uncertainty around exactly what kind of people Adam’s parents are begins to surface straight away. The formal pleasantries are a nice false front to what really bubbles under the surface with them and while they all try their best to make the weekend a success, there are just too many passing comments, sideways glances & loaded conversations to make that even a remote possibility.
The stark openness of their bigotry & racism is hardly a new concept given how rife it is in day to day life but with neither Adam or his parents seeing anything specifically wrong with this it’s clear that the two-year relationship is being called into question. That’s something that happens for Farai on a number of different levels as the racism itself is compounded by Adam’s reluctance to step in and challenge the views that are creating cracks between the two. Things can’t go on this way much longer and there’s more fallout between them all over the course of a weekend that’s cut abruptly short.
Charlot captures that generational difference in attitudes to mixed-race couples with an amazing sense of honesty on both sides. The shock at the views is brutal for Farai to experience and with them being seen as almost “normal”, it’s easy to see & recognize just how realistic that family dynamic is. The lack of acceptance is crucial in the direction the relationships take and while that’s got a difficult angle to explore there’s also a sense that it’s not something that anyone should have to stand for.
The art, and in particular the colouring, take things to a whole new level as it captures the current mood, the impending mood that’s on the horizon and the clash of ideals that are all given a sense of life about them across every page. The energy that’s split between the sombre & the vibrant is given an extra dynamic by the layouts and every feeling & emotion is punctuated by the lettering that adds it’s own influence to the story that’s unfolding.
A multi-layered plot plays out and while it’s focus is firmly on the clash between Adam & Farai, it’s also got more to say on a general level as it clearly points the finger at just how everyday xenophobia & racism has become engrained in day to day life. Hard to watch in places but important to experience, this becomes a story that uses the comic book medium to look at all the preconceived misconceptions that are bred from a lack of acceptance due to race and challenges them head on. While the outcome may well be less than ideal for the central characters by the end, it’s a vital step in taking a look at exactly where we are as a society and how far we still have to go.
You can get hold of a hardcopy of this over on the Avery Hill Publishing online shop or get a digital copy over on Gumroad. Keep track of what other titles they have in the works on their Twitter, Facebook & Instagram pages.