This is Guilherme Petreca’s first graphic novel, and for somebody as young as he is there’s a wealth of wisdom and thoughtfulness within these pages. The story focuses on the character of Ye, a young man who works in the fields with the rest of the villagers. He’s called Ye because that’s all he ever says, and even that is infrequently, so to all intents and purposes Ye is a mute.
When things go wrong for people, be they personal afflictions or all-encompassing wars, the populace believe it is the Colorless King that has visited these sorrows upon them, even putting down Ye’s lack of speech to this dark entity. Then one day a disturbance at the village sees Ye collapse and it’s decided he needs to shake off the Colorless King’s presence by travelling to meet a witch in a far off city. So, alone, Ye makes this journey, although it is far from straight-forward.
The book reads like a modern fable, and at its heart it is a tale of anxiety and worry and the obstacles we unwittingly put up. But what’s more it’s a story of how those worries and fears can be an advantage if confronted. Also, because of Ye’s problem with his speech the story is not dialogue heavy, and although there are plenty of supporting characters Petreca uses the opportunity to showcase his ability to draw facial expressions and body language to carry the emotional beats forward. In fact, Petreca’s skill as an illustrator is rather wonderful, using hatched lines and blocks of black to build depth and texture, and a muddy colour palette throughout. Characters wear layer upon layer of clothing, rooms are piled high with artefacts and ephemera, and even a hot air balloon, used across a handful of pages, has an intricate and interesting design. Together they all make a remarkable package with a heart, and a message we all can heed.
And if you liked that: Read One Hundred Nights Of Hero