Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Review: After the storm

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I remember entering my sophomore year listening to the reports of the devastation in New Orleans. I started classes almost immediately after Hurricane Katrina and—despite pleas from various university activists—I never gave enough attention to the actual events that took place after the deluge. I knew about the loss, the degradation, the ruin, but I never understood the exact series of events. This graphic novel made the days following Hurricane Katrina not only accessible, but heart-wrenching and vivid.

Josh Neufeld’s A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge chronicles five separate stories from a few days before Hurricane Katrina through the storm and the terrible aftermath. Each story is distinct in character and events. Neufeld chose his characters due to their completely diverse backgrounds and the different ways they braved the storm. It’s clear that Neufeld is close with his characters especially during the final portion of the book when he draws himself into the frame. After reading A.D. I have a new sense of what happened in New Orleans. The confusion of being lost in a once thriving city is visible in every frame. What was familiar became alien.

The drawings are clear with dark lines. Each section takes on a new tint, but for the most part the pages are monochrome. The changes in hue help establish new settings or time periods without having to waste frames with exposition—but could that exposition help the reader understand the characters?

The one thing comics don’t relate all too well is time; one could rely on titles which establish time, but don’t allow the reader to relive time. It takes a lot of drawings to recreate time and most artists just don’t have the resources to create such sprawling works. I think there is an even larger work waiting to be written. If Neufeld finds the time I would love to see what other stories he collected throughout his research.

This is definitely a worthwhile read and great for anyone looking for a personal account of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

A.D. was developed through SMITH magazine which is a great online resource for indie storytelling. Check out this little web-doc about their series Next Door Neighbors—you can see what kind of writing they prefer and how that influenced the creation of A.D. (I helped out on this web-series; a little cross promotion never hurt anyone, right?)

4 comments:

Salvatore said…

Glad this was a good read. And I think you're right that time is something that is somewhat difficult to do in a graphic work well, if only because of the space it takes up.

What do you think of 'Stitches' being nominated for the National Book Award?

colin said…

I'm happy for David Small–I have no ill will towards the man. Personally I think memoirs are tough to judge and it always seems that the sadder one portrays their story the more positive attention it gets. And his artwork, though technically great, didn't tickle my fancy. I prefer drawings to watercolors as I think details make graphic novels brilliant.

But I like seeing comics do well so kudos to Small.

J.T. Oldfield said…

This sounds like an interesting perspective on Katrina. Have you read the graphic novel of the 9-11 reports?

colin said…

JT–

I haven't yet. Is it any good? There are a lot of interesting interpretations of that report; I know of a theatre/music piece that was staged in Chicago.

And AD was good. I just wanted to keep reading.

.Colin