Slow Storm is a quick read from Danica Novgorodoff that was released back in 2008 by First Second, making it one of their earlier releases.
The story mainly follows two characters, Ursa and Rafi. Ursa is a firefighter in a rural portion of Kentucky, while Rafi is an illegal Mexican immigrant who works in a farmhouse that burns down as the story begins. Much of the time spent alone with these characters before their paths cross is devoted to how put-upon Ursa is when it comes to dealing with her job in a male-dominated environment, plus putting up with her obnoxious brother. Rafi’s backstory consists of him coming to America alone after hatching a plot to strike it rich with his brother, although his brother couldn’t come due to family obligations. The two meet after Ursa and her team deal with the burning farmhouse that housed Rafi, and Ursa finds Rafi hiding away. Ursa takes Rafi in when she catches wind of everyone suspecting him for lighting the farmhouse ablaze. They talk about family and religion before the book reaches its conclusion.
There are some very cool watercolor washes used to add atmosphere to the book, but something that put me off immediately was how messy the linework looked in comparison to the craft of the watercolors. It’s quite clear that the inking isn’t meant to portray anything in an accurate manner, although the depictions of the buildings, inanimate objects and bodies with no visible faces didn’t bother me. But the faces, oh god, the faces just looked so strange and comical considering how serious the tone of the book in general is. To highlight an early example, the book opens with Rafi being thrown off his feet by a tornado, and this sequence features a horse six panels in which has the most absurd, shocked look on its face. It seriously looks like a face that Heffer Wolfe of Rocko’s Modern Life would make and it happens right off the bat during this sequence with a frightening tone and I just don’t know, people. Several other emotional scenes also feature people with cubist-looking faces that just made me ask so many questions about the meaning behind doing it this way. I didn’t get it, to say the least.
Religion and family take on important roles in the overarching story, though I have virtually no idea what the ultimate point of it all was. Ursa and Rafi talk about family a great deal, chiefly because Ursa does something particularly heinous to her brother about half-way through the story and she feels incredibly guilty. Ursa and Rafi also talk about religion, as Ursa has become a skeptic atheist over the years, while Rafi thinks that he is being watched over by theological figures, and, in fact, sees Ursa as something of a guardian angel. These religious figures show up in the story as ghostly figures, often the figment of Rafi’s imagination, and sometimes appearing to other characters in times of stress. Over the course of the story, I couldn’t tie these two narrative threads into any kind of knot that made sense to me. Perhaps Ursa has opened her views a bit after talking with Rafi? Who knows. Is that a good thing even? I wouldn’t really think so, but that’s just me.
Seeing as the artwork rubbed me the wrong way on more than a few occasions, and how I couldn’t make heads or tails of the overarching themes despite being a rather experienced reader at this point, I’ll have to give this particular book a non-recommendation. Danica Novgorodoff has a long history in publishing graphic novels however, so I will be looking at her catalog for something that I like more. Her website can be found here.