Review by Frank Plowright
New World concerns the 16th century arrival of Europeans in what would become South America, and is largely told from the viewpoint of Iracema. She’s very talented with a bow and arrow, and the first to see a new batch of Portuguese who’ve just landed, appalled at their keeping a chained African slave. Iracema believes her tribe needs to see off the newcomers, but her grandfather, the tribal elder believes only avoiding them and moving deeper into the jungle will avert tragedy.
David Jesus Vignolli introduces surprises early as he blends myth and fantasy with the reality of a war that cannot ultimately be won. Mystical realism unites three characters from very different backgrounds, all broadly wanting the same thing, and the result is at times fascinating and at times infuriating. Vigonolli presents broadly sympathetic characters enjoying happy lives before European intervention, and introduces what are essentially gifts from ancient gods, so why is it that the European is supplied with the overall knowledge, apparently learned from studying in India? He’s the device by which the characters are united, he provides the explanations, and he determines the mission. It severely undermines Vignolli’s otherwise admirable damning of cultural imperialism.
He keeps the art simple, communicating via small panels unless a big threat is involved, and makes the most of these. His gloopy, not entirely defined monsters carry the appropriate threat, and the contrasting bright colours of the wildlife make an effective statement.
Dream sequences and visions of the future are established early as part of the narrative, but it’s through them that Vignolli loses his way for a while. There’s an outrage at comments made by Amerigo Vespucci when relating his travels to the continent eventually named after him, but imaginary bickering over this with Christopher Columbus is fanciful. The effect on Iracema is convenient also.
Much of what follows is predictable, and with a knowledge of how history played out, there’s a cultivated sadness at the winning of a battle when the war will be lost. New World is strongest when presenting a hope of an alternate universe where Iracema and her allies change history, but it’s ultimately flawed and doesn’t entirely deliver the mythic quality.