BOOK REVIEW: ‘A.D.’ finds loss and humanity amid the deluge

Aug. 22, 2009 | 10:59 p.m.

The Hero Complex has been following the story of Josh Neufeld’s ambitious webcomic “A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge” for a while now (you can find links to that coverage below) and it continutes today with a review of the new print-edition graphic novel (Pantheon:198 pp., $24.95). This review was written by John Reed, books editor of Brooklyn Rail, and it appeared in the pages of the Los Angeles Times.

John Neufeld

In 2007, Smith Magazine serialized a comics treatment of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. That work, “A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge,” tracked the lives of seven New Orleans residents as they fled, remained and struggled to survive and recover not just their things but their lives. Its creator, Josh Neufeld, is best known for his collaborations with Harvey Pekar, whose scripts, highly detailed and paneled, come to life in the renderings of illustrators casually assigned.

Neufeld’s style is in no way haphazard. His drawings are reminiscent less of the superhero than of the Sunday comics page. That doesn’t mean they are youthful or naive. With simple lines — deft and evocative — Neufeld communicates complex human emotions. Two- and three-color palettes render the passing days with sober integrity.

As the pages progress, “A.D.” highlights details that are surprising and vivid. As one character, Abbas, slips into denial about the disaster, his decision to remain behind at his convenience store — with guns and supplies — becomes indicative of the American dream. Abbas is not stupid; he is hardworking and fearless, and Neufeld casts him with charm and bravado. Denise, who curses the storm as a “bitch,” and the blasé Doctor Brobson, toasting Katrina with a party in the French Quarter, also help humanize a catastrophe that outsizes ordinary understanding. The account of Kwame, shipping off to Ohio for his senior year in high school, simultaneously relates the human ability to adapt and overcome, and the terrible loss of leaving everything behind…

THERE’S MORE, READ THE REST

– John Reed

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