- Posted by Johanna on February 22, 2007 at 6:30 am
- Category: Graphic Novel Reviews
- CREDITS: by June Kim
- PUBLISHER: Tokyopop; $9.99 US
The gripping concept of June Kim’s 12 Days is camouflage for exploring the experience of mourning.
Noah has died suddenly in a car accident. Before her death, she’d left her lover Jackie in order to marry a man and make her family happy. With this double loss, Jackie is experiencing a variety of deep, painful emotions, and to deal with them, she decides on her own ritual: she convinces Noah’s brother Nick to steal some of Noah’s ashes, which Jackie then consumes over the titular time period.
The storytelling is elliptical, much as memory is, bringing up scenes from different time periods as they seem to be needed. The illustration is lovely. Although presented in manga format by a Korean illustrator, the style is closer to that of an independent American comic. The fine detail, whether of setting or expression, is well-rendered.
The book invites the reader to involve themselves in the work. It can’t be rushed through, because some of the panels require concentration or even interpretation. Someone else’s life isn’t immediately understandable, especially someone feeling so much grief that they take such unusual action. It’s the kind of book that one can reread years later and find very different things, because the reader will have changed in the intervening years and will bring another self to the work. Then again, one may read it twice in a row and notice new elements as more pieces fall into place.
The ritual is really an excuse for remembering and trying to make sense of disagreeable choices and wanting to let go at the same time you want to hang on. Jackie wants a transition period, a way to indulge her grief and then a time to be able to be herself again. An extreme action matches the depth of her pain, even though the effect a person’s life has can’t be reduced to their physical components. The emotions the book carries will be familiar to anyone who’s suffered a loss in love. It’s a work to meditate on.
More information is available at the artist’s website. 12 Days has also been reviewed at the Comics Journal website. Kim previously contributed a short story, “B-612“, to the New Thing: Secrets anthology. (A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.)