Overview

An Elegy for Amelia Johnson

Review

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An Elegy for Amelia Johnson

Credits

  • Words: Andrew Rostan
  • Art: Dave Valeza & Kate Kasenow
  • Publisher: Archaia Comics
  • Price: $14.99
  • Release Date: Mar 2, 2011

Amelia Johnson, a published poet and woman that lives life on her own terms, is dying of cancer. When her condition reaches its final stages, she calls for her two best friends from each side of the country. We meet Jillian Webb, a magazine writer with commitment issues and Henry Barrons, an award-winning documentarian who masks his insecurities with outspoken bravado. Both are static in their careers, having misplaced their creative spark. Neither has ever met but they know of one another's connection to Amelia.

Amelia brings them together and asks them for her dying wish; to hand deliver personalized farewells to people all over the country. Both agree to it, for reasons beyond it being their best friend's request. What develops is a trip that will not only test their resolve but may also tarnish their perceptions of sweet Amelia.

When described in one line, An Elegy for Amelia Johnson is the kind of story you think you may have heard or seen before. A woman, terminally dying of cancer, solicits the help of her two best friends to travel around the country and hand deliver messages for her. It’s a bittersweet premise that can tug at the appropriate heartstrings on command.  That’s what you might think with just the one line description. What really unfolds during this 120-plus page graphic novel is a strong, surprising, and fully fleshed out story about three friends dealing with love, life, family, and death.

Elegy is most effective when it broaches moments that are uncomfortable for the reader. Rostan doesn’t shy away from depicting real human error and selfishness, adding weight to these characters’ journeys. Let’s face it, this tale could have easily been written off as a cookie cutter, made for television film, but it’s so much more. There’s real bravery in these voices. These are real people with bouts of selfishness and judgment. Everyone in this story reveals ugliness and beauty in equal doses. 

The art by Dave Valeza and Kate Kasenow services the story perfectly. In some panels the lines are lose and somewhat cartoony, while in others the attention to detail and spatial settings is phenomenal. Though some of the faces and figures often resemble comic strip characters, the tale always remains grounded in reality. These are real people merely translated on the page with slight exaggeration. 

An Elegy of Amelia Johnson is an emotional and thematic success, reaching for your heart in the classiest of ways: with dignity. There are many places within this story that could have become sappy or clichéd, but the creative team was able to peel these moments back to their core, never letting it become melodramatic.

Well written, wonderfully penciled and beautifully realized, Elegy is a story with honesty and heart, capable of being within any reader's grasp. This is the kind of book you can hand to anyone. I for one look forward to where these creators take us next.

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