Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

Home > CR Reviews

An Elegy For Amelia Johnson
posted March 30, 2011

imageCreators: Dave Valeza, Andrew Rostan, Kate Kasenow
Publishing Information: Archaia, hardcover, 128 pages, March 10, $14.95
Ordering Numbers: 9781932386837 (ISBN13), 1932386831 (ISBN10)

One imagines that any number of readers of An Elegy For Amelia Johnson -- one of those comics that seems perfect for younger readers but onto which a certain kind of older reader will attach themselves, arms crossed, daring someone to suggest it's not also for them -- will react strongly to the art by Dave Valeza & Kate Kasenow. No one should blame those fans: the art in this Archaia stand-alone suggests multiple, idiosyncratic, true-to-their regions settings, but never overpowers the reader with a barrage of information. Even if doesn't 100 percent feel like we're standing in a publishing outfit, a recluse's home in New Mexico, a film production office as we understand them, Elegy does the next best thing of telling us that these are those places as they exist on this world. The figures are cute, drawn in a way that's slick enough to please the fan that wants their eyes to slide off of the art, and with just enough detail enough for those that want to stop and stare at each page if only for the thick, meaty inking. It's recognizable in a way that demands its place in the current school of North American-made comics for kids, a swirl of influences put down on paper really, really quickly.

I can imagine any number of reasons why one might become very fond of Elegy; I personally couldn't quite get past the lack of grounded, believable characters. Everything we're told about Amelia Johnson and the two friends from her life (high school, college) who are this story's lead characters -- well, the thing is, we're told those things. We rarely get to see any of the qualities that connected these people, or, in Amelia's case, any of her qualities, period. Without any sense of those friendships or how these people interact with each other above the facile plot points provided by the book's high concept, I found myself caring very little if their various issues were resolved. A surprising plot twist regarding Amelia's final close relationship didn't shock or surprise because I knew nothing about Amelia except what I'd been told by a series of narrators I didn't know to be reliable. What's upsetting about this is that the book has a a complex moral outlook that might have been well-served by something more engaged and idiosyncratic -- the moral framework for processing Amelia Johnson as a person was more complicated than the person. That was sort of odd. I know that some people will likely enjoy this book very much, and I think for teens it might even be a useful work. For me, it felt like I was seeing a movie whose particulars had been sued out of the screenplay by its ostensible subject.