Sunday, December 30, 2012

a + e 4ever by i merey

Ilike Merey's a + e 4ever is a searing graphic novel about queer unrequited love. It is not for the faint of heart, both for its edgy content -- including rape, nudity, swearing, underage drinking and recreational drug use -- as well as the emotional turbulence of the two central characters who are coming to terms with their hormones and their identities.

Eu (Eulalie) Mason and Ash (Asher) Machnik are best friends in high school, united in their outsider status as well as their love of art and their taste in music. Eu is a dyke, but sometimes goes out with boys. She is over 6 feet tall and not afraid to use her switchblade. She has a painful crush on Ash... who is gay. He is wispy and beautiful and easily mistaken for a girl. He cannot bear to be touched. He sometimes goes out with girls but makes it clear to Eu that he doesn't feel that way about her.

"You won't be my girlfriend. I won't be your boyfriend. We are not going to go out. We are not going to fuck. EVER. So if you're waiting for one of those to happen and that's the only reason you're friends with me... you can stop talking to me altogether."

Merey's inkwash artwork is raw and expressive. It's a little like Craig Thompson's work in Blankets, without the polish. Merey's close-up faces are very effective with their beautiful eyes. She is inventive, too. Ash, for example, is portrayed with one eye as a black hollow after he ingests a drug given to him by a stranger at a night club. Sometimes Merey uses manga techniques like distorting facial features with jagged fangs to show rage. I love the occasional costume design-type sketches of Eu. Many of the panels in this novel are not pretty, but they give off a creative energy nevertheless.

It took me some time to get used to the mishmash of different font styles. The scribble-scratchy lettering used to name chapters was especially hard to decipher. That's a minor quibble, however. The story is gritty and honest and absolutely remarkable. It is suitable for older teens as well as adults.

Readalikes: How Loathsome (Tristan Crane & Ted Naifeh); Mosh Pit (Kristyn Dunnion).

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