Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Two Brothers

The most complex and moving stories can be spun from the simplest of things. Take for example, this book Two Brothers, which is based on the writings of Milton Hatoum, one of Brazil's greatest authors. This graphic novel follows a family over the course of a number of decades, with its many relationships, twists of fate, secrets, and reverberating decisions. Much of what transpires flows from the relationship of two brothers, Yaqub and Omar, who look identical but are very, very different. Yaqub us sent away to be raised in Lebanon at a young age while Omar stays at home in Brazil and becomes a ne'er-do-well who drinks and carouses much of the time.
Yaqub eventually returns a changed man, a learned one, too. Coming back raises many issues long thought buried, and the past once again haunts the present. Still, Jaqub becomes a notable engineer and moves to Sao Paulo, though his presence is still felt by the whole family.
Sorry for the info-dump about the plot set-up, but it is all prologue to my saying that this book has something for pretty much everyone: family drama, romance, secret affairs, illegitimate children, run-ins with criminals and con-men, revenge, and lots of people seeking recompense for what has happened in the past. Apart from the plot, the artwork, rendered in black and white, is also exquisite, full of energy, emotion, and detail. I was moved several times while reading this book, and once I started I really did not want to stop. Also, it is so beautifully crafted and full of nuance that I immediately sought to reread and revisit it. This is a sumptuous, deeply satisfying sort of book.

Fittingly, this book's creators, Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá are twin brothers who have been making comics together since childhood. Moon is probably best known for his collaboration with writer Matt Fraction, Casanova, a science fiction spy story, and his Eisner Award winning webcomic Sugarshock. Bá also collaborated on Casanova and is well known for drawing The Umbrella Academy, a celebrated tale of super-powered siblings written by rocker Gerard Way. The brothers collectively blog about their works here, and they have created a number of works jointly, including the multiple-award winning Daytripper and an adaptation of Neil Gaiman's short story "How to Talk to Girls at Parties." They speak extensively about their work on Two Bothers in this interview.

All of the reviews I have read about this book mentioned how excellent it is and also how it enhances its already rich source material. Jesse Schedeen remarked on how it "weaves a complex, multi-generational tale of a family torn apart by a feud" and "features both artists working in perfect storytelling sync." Matt Little praised it as "a work of art that shows the power of sequential storytelling and its ability to enhance and enrich an already captivating story through mis en scene and confident artwork." Oliver Sava wrote, "Moon and Bá’s talent for dramatic composition and nuanced emotion allows them to realize the full scope of Hatoum’s novel while interpreting it through their own distinct artistic sensibility, giving readers a deeply poignant story that is elevated by the phenomenal visuals."

Two Brothers was published by Dark Horse, and they have more info about the book here.

I just met the two authors at HeroesCon this year, and they were nice enough to autograph and doodle in my copy of this book. It was a great thrill to meet them!

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