In 1984, three dudes from a still-recently formed rap group called Whodini asked a question in a song that would, eventually, stand the test of time, “Friends – how many of us have them?”
The answer, I think, is “hopefully, all of us have at least one,” but the graphic novel featured in today’s Comic Corner is one that deals with the concept of friends and the general power of friendship, as well as the trials and tribulations that come with being friends in adulthood.
Only, in the case of Sophie Goldstein and Jenn Jordan’s “An Embarrassment of Witches,” animal familiars are involved in the equation. Nevertheless, friendship is a dominant theme in it, and, because I love a good story about a pair of friends with a spooky-ish theme in it, I have to feature it here.
The story follows two characters – Aurora “Rory” Rosenberg-Gonzalez and Angela Jeong – who are both fresh from graduating college and are preparing themselves to take on the world at large.
However, as soon as the story begins in medias res with Rory getting dumped by her boyfriend, literal minutes before boarding a plane to Australia for a job opportunity, the reader is in for a story full of dilemmas, as Rory returns to her friend’s apartment, tears flowing out her eyes.
It is from there that readers get introduced to Angela, Rory’s (eventual) roommate, who, as it turns out, is set to start an internship at Panacea Group – a botanical alchemy company.
…That happens to be advised by Rory’s mother, Audrey. Awkward.
Pair this with Rory’s attempts at convincing – read that as “lying to” – her mother that she is “in Australia,” and you get yourself a recipe for disaster that generates a lot of stress between both Rory and Angela, as well as Audrey, who is trying to get the truth out of one of them.
From there, add the prospect of romantic interests to the hypothetical laboratory flask, and it just explodes, with glass flying everywhere.
As Angela progresses through her internship and as Rory continues to keep up the faḉade, both of them begin to grow apart from one another, and worse, begin to generate animosity toward each other. This even gets reflected in the moods of their familiar companions, Rhonda and Archimedes, respectively.
This page-turner is minimally and beautifully illustrated by Goldstein and creatively written by both Goldstein and Jordan, and it shows on every page. Using a rather small color palette, both creators manage to convey a realistic story, but with all the whimsy and creativity of a fantasy world.
For example, one of my favorite pages shows Rory and Angela on a trip to the mall – conveniently after Rory’s sudden breakup – which features several pastiches of real-world brands. “Taco Spell,” “Seers,” and “Fae Jewelers” never fail to get a chuckle out of me, but I think the best joke on that page is the “H&M” in Hebrew lettering. That’s just absolutely brilliant!
In reading this graphic novel, it had me think about my friends from a life before adulthood, before college, and all the times that we had, both good and bad. The downhill bike races and trampoline wrestling matches are times I will always fondly remember, of course, but I also have a fondness for the times where we would say to each other that we’re “not friends anymore” after a play fight or argument went sour.
Of course, we would always retract that statement, except for the few times we didn’t.
I guess what I’m trying to say here is that Goldstein and Jordan’s story is an excellent one. If a whimsical story such as “An Embarrassment of Witches” can get me thinking about life like that, then I can say with confidence that it is a great book.
That being said, you need to get out there and get yourself a copy of this brilliantly crafted, brilliantly told graphic novel, any way you can.