Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #199 by Drew Barth

Two Perspectives Here Before You

If there’s a medium that can use its visuals to their fullest extent when representing characters, it’s comics. There are only so many ways for film to show a person—but the face doesn’t change much without hours in the makeup chair. Comics, though, revel in that difference. Artists have their styles and techniques that make them immediately recognizable and, when we see those faces they’ve constructed for a story, we feel that immediate familiarity with their work. And a comic like Two Graves by Genevive Valentine, Ming Doyle, Annie Wu, Lee Loughridge, and Aditva Bidikar takes that idea of differing art to its fullest extent.

Two Graves is a comic about death. Mostly. Emilia and a man that could be Death are traveling, but we’re not quite sure where or why. All we know is that they’re moving as they can’t stay in one place for too long. By the end of the first issue, they already have two bodies to their one: one that had been waiting for Death, and another that hadn’t been expecting their night to end so abruptly. Emilia and Death work together, but we’re being kept in the dark, much like they are about one another.

What helps in this division between the two characters, though, is how each character is represented on the page. When we’re looking from Emilia’s perspective, we look through the lens of Annie Wu’s art. For the person who may be Death, Ming Doyle takes over. Because of this, we have a harder split between what we can and can’t see. Both Emilia and Death are being followed in a close first person perspective and, as a result, we only get a portion of each character’s thoughts and feelings as the story progresses. As readers, we know there’s portions of the story locked behind each character’s perspective, but this format allows for something more interesting in how the story is told. We would typically follow a single character or a larger cast with a roving third person narrator that may or may not know all in a typical series. But with this split between the two, we’re more privy to each of their thoughts and secrets—we simultaneously know more and less than each character as a result. We have to participate in the story in a more active way to get the entire picture.

As a first issue, Two Graves does what I love to see—strong characterization, established tone, worldbuilding—but with that added layer of Wu and Doyle tag-teaming on the art to create something more that I haven’t seen in a comic in a long time. It’s a mystery series that doesn’t show any hand too much or too often. We’re guessing intentions just as much as Emilia and Death are to one another. We can’t quite settle into the story as we know we’re missing something else. But that something else is what draws us into the story further and further. 

Get excited. Get going ahead now.

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Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331, 485, & 510) resides in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida.