Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Just Read: Aya by Abouet & Oubrerie

This is a very lightweight sex comedy (if the characters were white, I'd have been sure I saw it in the mid-80s); the only thing that makes it notable is that it's set in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, in the late '70s, in the middle of a period of peace and economic growth there. It is nice to see a story from Africa (the writer, Abouet, is from the Ivory Coast herself, though she's a few years younger than the main characters of this story) that's not about war, famine, genocide, or other horrible things, but I'm afraid this story itself isn't all that impressive.

Three teenage girls are friends, and they have various (not all that interesting, or new, or well-imagined) adventures with love and sex. The title character is our ostensible viewpoint character, but her perspective doesn't really frame the story, and using her as the occasional narrator just moves the focus of the story away from the other two women -- the ones who are actually doing things. A comedy about young people has to convince us that the characters are real, specific people -- not just types -- and Aya never did that for me. The young women are pretty well rounded (except Aya herself, who seems to be more a projection of the writer than a real character), but the men are nearly all caricatures, though not broad enough to be funny (or to make it feel like their caricaturization was deliberate).

The dialogue is passable, though a bit flat, but the art is nice -- it's a little stylized and rubbery to give some energy to a mostly talky story. Abouet may yet do important work in comics, but this isn't it. I might take a look at her next graphic novel, if it comes around to the States. But I think that I'm more interested in seeing Oubrerie's art, next time, on a better story.

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