My 13 Favorite Things of 2009 (Part 12 of 17)

Aya: The Secrets Come Out (Drawn & Quarterly): With a quiet sense of confidence that only comes from real life experience, and a zeal for illuminating seldom seen portions of African culture and lifestyle, Aya delivered its third installment in 2009, and was recently selected as Graphic Novel of the Month. For every element the story has to offer in terms of depicting singular events or more general living conditions, the art answers just as strongly. The pencils are content to hum happily along depicting the events, using strong transitions, emotive lines, and typical looking hand drawn panels, and then… every so often, a single page will just stop you dead in your tracks. With a photographer’s sensibility, a visual expanse becomes frozen in time with a snapshot of a static moment that perfectly isolates a mood, place, or emotion, forcing you to absorb and reconsider what’s come just before. Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie work in perfect unison. The very style of Oubrerie’s lines call to mind the themes of Abouet’s saga, to the degree that it all feels like it’s coming from one person, one creator who is both writer and artist, intuitively understanding the symbiotic link between the two functions. Aya defies its own genre and has redefined a completely new category that is non-fiction, part travelogue, part documentary, part autobio slice-of-life, in the trailblazing tradition of books like Craig Thompson’s Carnet de Voyage or works like Palestine and Safe Area Gorazde from Joe Sacco. If there is any sense of justice in the universe, if inherent quality of craft were the true driver of fame and success, then the multi-part saga of Aya should catapult these creators to stardom, or at the very least – prolific future projects and enhanced recognition at the Eisner Awards.


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