Review by Frank Plowright
Afrika is a cleverly constructed character piece set against the lushly-illustrated background of the African veldt.
Dario Ferrer may lack some basic charm when introduced, but he’s a diligent protector of the wildlife under his care on a Tanzanian game reserve. He’s deliberately isolated himself for reasons never clarified, and the intrusion of journalist Charlotte (surname never given) is unwelcome. Ferrer is a fervent believer in ecological causes, and instantly pegs her as representing the planet-destroying societies he despises. Her initial reaction to the savagery of Africa does nothing to dispel this assessment. She’s also critical of Ferrer’s attitude toward poachers. If he locates them, there’s no sentimentality, nor does he consider rehabilitation. He kills them.
Unfortunately while Ferrer is engaged in protecting the land for the people and for the wildlife, the officials running the country have an altogether less caring attitude about their lands. If sealing a mining deal requires disposing of a few dozen troublesome villagers, so be it. Ferrer and Charlotte stumble across the results, he instantly recognises the danger of knowledge, resulting in the pair having to flee from soldiers still in the area. The final pages are excellent, and by turn subtle, and heartwarming.
The only African voice heard is Ferrer’s wife Iseko, never entirely convinced that he’ll remain with her, or in Tanzania. She views Charlotte’s arrival and her husband’s subsequent disappearance in an entirely different light, and the smouldering jealousy plays out to a surprising conclusion.
Hermann’s art is, as ever, spectacular, and the setting was surely partly to let him illustrate Africa. He delivers the picturesque wildlife shots and stunning scenery, but without neglecting the grubbiness of the all-pervasive dust. He also toys with the conventions of comics by drawing commendably ordinary looking, yet distinct people. Ferrer is no handsome hero, but on the short side, middle-aged and balding, and neither is Charlotte a great beauty.
Central to events is modern-day European involvement in Africa, from Ferrer to representatives of the Ferguson company. This, however, sidelines almost every African in a story titled Afrika, which comes across as distinctly odd. In common with other SAF graphic novels, the translation is not particularly adept, carried out by someone who can speak English, but is unfamiliar with nuance. Ferrer’s dialogue is often far too refined and precise for the character he’s established as, and that’s a continual jarring note. There’s also an egregious error in the final panel, supplanting Tanzania with Tasmania, additionally present in the German edition, but the anomalies aren’t intrusive enough to ruin the overall experience, just to diminish it.