(This review is part of a series looking at the output of Archaia, one of the more intriguing publishers in the comic field. A review copy was provided by the publisher; thanks to Archaia and Jason Sacks for arranging this.)
Amelia Johnson, poet and free spirit, has terminal cancer. She asks her two closest friends, documentary filmmaker Henry Barrons and novelist-turned-travel writer Jillian Webb, for a special favor. That request takes Henry and Jillian across the United States, to discover more about their friend Amelia and about themselves. That’s the premise of An Elegy For Amelia Johnson, the new graphic novel from Archaia.
Elegy is written and drawn by newcomers to the comics world. The art, by Dave Valeza (with assistance from Kate Kasenow), is in a manga-filtered-through-Bryan O’Malley style, which works for the down-to-earth settings. It’s not perfect — the faces do look uneven, and there are some cases where the lack of detail is noticeable and a bit distracting. Not to mention that one of the characters looks a bit like Sally Forth from the newspaper comic. It’s still good, though; I’d like to see what Valeza and Kasenow might be drawing next.
The story is by Andrew Rostan, and there’s no other way to describe it: This is the graphic novel version of a Hollywood chick flick. This means that the story has more than a few predictable moments; one conflict seems forced, and I spotted the ending about halfway through. You can see the buttons being pushed at times. And the last few pages felt rushed and clichéd; the last lines of dialogue are especially cringe-worthy.
The book looks great, which is standard for Archaia; their design is one of their strong points. It’s in a genre that comics has been shying away from. It’s good enough overall to merit a mild recommendation. But I really wish that the creators had aimed higher, taken risks greater than their characters did. I wish they had avoid the obvious path. Then, we might have had a really memorable story instead of a chick flick.