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Unholy Kinship


Unholy Kinship

Luca's role has always been that of caretaker. Her father is dead and her mother institutionalized, so it falls to Luca to take care of her unstable older sister, Gae. They've cobbled together a life, but their fragile peace begins to shatter when Gae's grip on reality starts to weaken. Is she really mentally ill, or does her talk about the past, and their parents' former profession, have something to do with the bizarre dreams Luca has been having? And what about those sudden visits from the sinister nurse from their mother's hospital?

Readers will first be caught by Naomi Nowak's stunning illustrations, but she does not allow their power to overshadow her story. Luca is a fascinating main character. Caught between her desire to help her sister and her longing for the more normal life of a college student, her struggles will be recognizable to anyone who has ever been forced into a caretaker role. Even if you haven't had to play that part, Nowak clearly illustrates her problems in such a way as to engender sympathy and understanding rather than pity. Gae's troubles are equally well illuminated, as she tries to make people see the situation, but the rumor of madness overshadows the truth.

Other characters are not quite as fleshed out in this first volume: the well-meaning best friend, the blind date who is totally the wrong fit for Luca, the menacing hospital staff. Nowak seems to leave clues that they will become important later on in the story, but that doesn't happen in this volume. (A rather cliffhanger ending suggests that she's planning on writing more of Luca and Gae's story, but I could find no information about that on her website.)

Visual details abound and readers will want to spend time staring at the beauty of each page. Nowak's illustrations literally gleam. She highlights lips, cheeks, noses and hair with delicate light spots that give the impression that her characters are glowing from within, even in the darkest of moments. The fantasy elements gradually spread throughout the story, softly taking over Luca's world but never pushing too hard. Her text boxes are small but not crowded, which keeps them from overshadowing the luminous illustrations.

In her use of panels, Nowak shows herself a master of her craft. Overlapping each other, the panels offer a variety of views: some show other aspects of the action happening on that page, others show related elements or actions that are taking place at other locations. Instead of limiting herself to straight-edged panels, Nowak plays around with ovals, circles and even moon shapes. Sometimes the main story is in smaller panels overlapped on top of a panel providing the background, all filled with beautifully shaded and colored illustrations. This beautiful art style, combined with a slightly suspenseful story, makes this a highly recommended read for comics fans looking for new, unique talent.

Reviewed by Snow Wildsmith on November 1, 2006

Unholy Kinship
by Naomi Nowak

  • Publication Date: November 1, 2006
  • Genres: Manga
  • Paperback: 114 pages
  • Publisher: NBM Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 1561634824
  • ISBN-13: 9781561634828