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An Elegy for Amelia Johnson

Posted by Sarah LeBoeuf On March - 2 - 2011

An Elegy for Amelia Johnson, an original graphic novel from Archaia about life, love, friendship, and death, is available this week. Read on for our review.

An Elegy for Amelia Johnson
Story by Andrew Rostan
Artwork by Dave Valeza and Kate Kasenow

Cover Art by Dave Valeza

When I started reading An Elegy for Amelia Johnson, I expected that there would be some touching moments and probably some tears. After all, you can’t have 116 pages of a graphic novel named after a thirty-year-old woman on the verge of death from cancer without those most basic elements. However, this story turned out to be a lot more than I expected; more than just a story about friendship and death, An Elegy for Amelia Johnson is a graphic novel about life, love, and the choices (good and bad) that make us human.

Henry the filmmaker and Jill the writer are Amelia Johnson’s best friends. Living at opposite ends of the country, they have never met until Amelia requests their presence at her hospital bedside. After a difficult struggle with breast cancer, Amelia Johnson has been given a grim prognosis: she only has three weeks left. Her final wish is to say good-bye to the people who have meant the most to her, but she wants to do it right, so she sends Henry and Jill on a cross-country trip to deliver her last messages. Amelia knows her friends well, and she knows that they won’t say no, no matter how big a request it is. However, this journey isn’t just for her benefit; it’s for Henry’s and Jill’s as well.

On their road trip, Henry and Jill, both of whom think they know Amelia better than anyone else, don’t see eye-to-eye on everything. Henry, Amelia’s childhood friend who stayed in touch even when they went to colleges at opposite coasts, is a successful documentary filmmaker already planning to make Amelia’s last wish into his next hit. Jill, her college roommate, is a writer who seems to have lost her motivation. Their disdain for each other that quickly turns to friendship might be a little predictable, but that doesn’t make it the idea of it any less touching. The idea that they wouldn’t have met each other, or many others along the way, without Amelia is one of the driving forces behind the story. Do any of us really stop to think about the lives we’ve touched, or the people who helped make us who we are? Probably not, and neither did Henry or Jill, until they were forced to.

Writer Andrew Rostan has found a way to take common storytelling themes and still make them feel original, interesting, and touching. I read the entire graphic novel in one sitting, not wanting to miss what the road-trippers would find out about Amelia next. There were a few moments that took me out of the story, like Henry’s sometimes-forced filmmaker-speak, but Rostan maintains a constant attitude that’s about celebrating life more than mourning the inevitability of death. The artwork, done by Dave Valeza and Kate Kasenow, is simple, clean, and black-and-white, and it’s a great accent to the tone set by Rostan.

It might seem as though stories like this have already been told in various other mediums of fiction, but Andrew Rostan’s approach to the idea is interesting and, despite the tragedy of it, optimistic. It’s a great read, but more than that, it might actually make you think about your own life and what it means to other people, even if only for a minute.

1 Response so far
  1. Amelia Johnson gets lots of attention! | SEQA Lab Said,

    [...] Weekly The Times Herald The Beat Newsarama Guerrilla Geek The Quarter Bin Comic Book Resources Newsarama [...]

    Posted on March 30th, 2011 at 11:03 AM

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