Review by Ian Keogh
Teenagers Boetma and her younger brother Inotu are trapped by their parents’ faith in their own talents, whereas reality suggests their father’s engineering skills are lacking, and there’s not a market for their mother’s decorative pots. Shifting from place to place has characterised their life, but recently Boetma’s been slipping into other worlds during her dreams, and Inotu has been befriended by a strange monkey.
Leila Del Duca was to this point better known as an artist, but her first published writing is extraordinarily imaginative. Afar is a graphic novel that toys with preconception. At first it seems to be a tale set somewhere in Africa, but as Boetma’s dreaming interludes take her to a succession of different worlds, what’s presumed to be Africa reveals itself as something different. There’s a warrior with a robotic arm, the monkey looks like no Earth equivalent, and a form of lizard and dog hybrid is seen. There’s a lot of weirdness, all of it intriguing, and not explained until the third chapter, but what sustains Afar to that point is the strong bond between Boetma and Inotu. Del Duca captivates with characters that grow and progress as the story continues.
Afar wouldn’t be nearly as captivating, however, without Kit Seaton as artist. Her interpretations ensure an emotional depth to the main cast, and the requirements of the plot are that she construct credible alien species and worlds. Designing just one is work enough, but the several are required, even if only for a couple of panels. The isolated lapse into the more predictable human and recognisable creature can be overlooked when the remainder are so novel and visually interesting. Eventually one world comes to take precedence, and possibly to save Seaton’s sanity the surroundings aren’t too different from those in Boetma’s day to day life.
While a complete episode, it’s obvious that there’s so much more to be told about Boetma and her abilities, and both enquiring young minds and their parents will want to know what that is.