Thursday, 10 April 2014

Bayou Vol 1 by Jeremy Love Review

Set in the small town of Charon in Mississippi during the Depression-era, segregation is in full swing and racism so pervasive that a black man is lynched for whistling at a white woman – that’s all it takes! It’s a grim time especially for Lee Wagstaff whose father is accused of kidnapping her white friend Lily Westmoreland and taken to jail, on no evidence, where he’ll surely be killed without trial. 

But Lee knows different because she saw the monster in the swamp who ate her friend and holds her still in the alternate world that exists alongside ours: the Southern Neverland. And with the help of a friendly blues-loving giant called Bayou, Lee must venture into the dark and magical world to bring back Lily and save her dad. 

Bayou reads a lot like a Southern version of Pan’s Labyrinth. The period setting, the young girl heroine able to see and exist in the real world and the fantasy world, and Bayou acting as her guide a la the Faun. It’s a book that would be appropriate for young adults but dances along the line between light and dark – one moment revealing the ugly depths of racism and then the mischievous playfulness of the Southern Neverland that Bayou exists in. And, as cheesy as it may sound, as odd-looking as the inhabitants of the fantasy world are, the real monsters are the white supremacists who murder people for their race. 

Jeremy Love does an excellent job of both writing and drawing a compelling and enjoyable book in Bayou Vol 1. The colours feel a bit muted, a little dusty like you would get from chalk or pencils, but it’s the only aspect of the art that I wasn’t completely satisfied with. Otherwise, Love perfectly captures the atmosphere of the time – the menace in the air due to the oppression of the blacks, as well as the look of the characters and their world. It’s especially effective when he begins introducing the fantasy elements like winged human sprites, giant monsters with child-like faces, and animal-headed guards – their appearances are startling amidst the realism and draws the reader further into the narrative. 

Bayou Vol 1 is a smashing good read with great characters, strong plot, lovely art – the only real complaint is how short it is at around four issues. I’ve ordered Vol 2 to see how what happens next in Lee and Bayou’s story, and instilling that desire in the reader is really the mark of a good book.

Bayou TP Vol 01

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