Tuesday, 6 December 2016

The Return of the Honey Buzzard by Aimee de Jongh Review

Simon is a bookseller whose family-owned bookshop is going under. But that’s only the beginning of his troubles as he witnesses a woman kill herself which awakens painful childhood memories of a school-friend who also met a tragic end. I know, cheerful lil comic, eh? 

I’m right in the middle with Aimee de Jongh’s The Return of the Honey Buzzard - it’s not bad but it’s not great either. 

I loved the black and white ink art - so beautifully drawn, great use of space, layouts; the book has a good flow to it thanks in large part to the visuals. This is one of the benefits of the author being both writer and artist. 

The book also has some very heavy themes like bullying, suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which aren’t easy subjects to write about and I fully commend de Jongh for tackling them head on. The story is well-handled in the way it layers the past and present, Simon and Ralf’s friendship is convincing and Ralf’s behaviour in how he responds to being bullied especially feels real. And, though I’ve never suffered from PTSD, you get an unsurprising sense of how nightmarish the experience must be from the harrowingly exaggerated art in those sequences. 

The narrative felt a bit too contrived to me though, a bit too writerly. Just when he needs someone to talk to, Simon happens to meet a young girl called Regina who helps him with his issues by listening to him and right away I knew who she was - and it turned out at the end I was right! The honey buzzard metaphor was also a bit too on the nose. It just feels like you’re reading a constructed narrative, you can see the seams a little too clearly, and de Jongh’s treatment of these subjects comes off as a bit too surface-level. I guess the point of the book was Simon finding peace with his demons by the end but the whole thing wraps up too cleanly in a way you only find in fiction. 

The Return of the Honey Buzzard is by no means a crap comic but it's obvious construction kept me from getting too invested in the story - I was too aware I was reading A Serious And Important Book. I’d still say it’s worth a look though for indie comics fans.

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