Sunday, November 23, 2008


I just finished reading the 160 screens of the comic Bayou that is available through Zuda. I don't think I am exaggerating by saying that this is the best thing I have read all year. I only wish that there was more of it available.

Bayou is set in the town of Charon on the Mississippi delta in 1933. It is not a good time to be black in the south, but Lee Wagstaff and her father are doing the best they can. The story opens with Lee diving into the bayou, rope in hand, to try and retrieve the body of a young black boy who was killed and dumped in the water after supposedly whistling at a white woman. Her father is holding the rope on the shore. She is doing it because they are paying her father a very much needed three dollars and he is just too big to get into the spot the body has settled. While she is under the water she catches a glimpse of a butterfly winged version of the dead boy that she believes to be his soul.

That is the first glimpse of the kind of place Charon Mississippi is, and the sorts of creatures living and lurking just out of sight. It is doubtful that there are creatures under and around the water that are any worse than the very real, very cruel bigots and murderers that seem to be the rule rather than the exception. As the story goes on that hypothesis proves to be false.

I actually don't want to spoil the story as I am tasking everyone who even casually glances at this to go follow that link and give it a few minutes of your time. If you aren't hooked in short order I would be surprised. What I will say, is that it doesn't take long for the story to get going and for Lee to become fully involved in a heroic quest that pits her against fantastic creatures that seem to reflect and amplify everything that is wrong in the same way that she will meet new companions that do the same for the positive characters she knows, in order to rescue her former best friend, and save her father before he is lynched by an angry mob. She embarks on this with the help of a sometimes reluctant hero in the form of a very large green swamp monster named 'Bayou' who greatly resembles her good father and is himself intent on seeing his kids again somehow.

The art is absolutely beautiful. The characters are perfect, and I am not sure that I have seen expressions and emotions conveyed so perfectly. The fantastic creatures have a real sense of 'other' to them, while at the same time being easily recognizable for what they are.

I really do see this comic as a blend of regrettable southern history, blues, Uncle Remus Stories, and southern and slave folklore(real or imagined), mixed with characters that could have been pulled right out of To Kill A Mockingbird. It's just perfect. I am a father of daughters, and the bond and the love between Lee and her father, and her determination to save him is nearly tear-inducing.

I used the word perfect more than I usually do, but I did it to keep from overusing the word AWESOME.

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