I am living in the future we only dreamed of, back in the 90s when we were hoping for stories that weren’t superhero or other pulp genres, when we envisioned comics that were more than 32 pages with staples, when we talked about comics for people other than young white men.
Andi Watson (writer, here) and Simon Gane (artist) have reteamed (after the recently reissued Paris) for a story about a teenager given a wonderful summer opportunity and the bittersweet experience she has.
If Sunburn was a novel, it would be coming-of-age, but as the story is about who people are when they’re elsewhere, about the dream of something different, it’s much nicer in a more visual medium. (Is there a message? Perhaps. I am reminded of Buckaroo Banzai‘s “Remember, no matter where you go, there you are.” We cannot escape ourselves, nor the choices other people make.)
The sixteen-year-old Rachel is an everyday young British woman. Thanks to a loose connection with a family friend, she’s invited to spend the summer in Greece while her parents are stuck with their drab, regular choices.
The color palette is all sand beige and sea blue. It’s glorious, and the pages are packed with detail, drawing the reader into the fantasy of this miraculous escape.
Diane and Peter have no kids of their own, and Diane acts rather like a fairy godmother at first, giving Rachel “hand-me-down” outfits that she sees as glamorous and adult. They give her drinks and take her to parties and Diane introduces her to another visitor for the summer, a young man named Benjamin.
It’s all so astounding it’s almost unbelievable. As the days pass, Rachel learns that everyone but her has some kind of plan or scheme or secret, and so this becomes a key point in her growing up, a life-changing experience in a way she didn’t expect.
It’s a beautiful novel that left me with plenty to think about. At this point in my life, it’s more retrospective, looking back and wondering what I might have done when I was that impossibly young. But regardless, the scenery is gorgeous. Easily one of the best graphic novels I’ve read this year.
You can see some sample pages and find out more about the creators’ process in this edition of Andi Watson’s newsletter.