(Greentea Publishing, 2013)
Review by Brad Gischia
WRITTEN BY: Vera Greentea
ART & COLORS BY: Laura Muller
LETTERING BY: Frank Cvetkovic
“You are never dead until you are forgotten.” The premise of Nenetl of the Forgotten Spirits, written by Vera Greentea, strikes a somber note, and yet is one of my new favorite books. It could be that it reminds of the first time I saw Courtney Crumrin, or realized that the guy who animated the beginning of Mystery on PBS was actually a cartoonist. (Edward Gorey) The subject matter has always been in my wheelhouse, and now that I’ve added Nenetl, I’ve had to move the wheel to the basement.
The belief behind the main idea lends a certain amount of weight to a story. With Nenetl, Ms. Greentea is focusing on the Mexican belief that each person can die three deaths. The first death is when your heart stops beating, the second is when the person is buried, and the third is when they are forgotten. That is the death they fear most. Nena is one of the forgotten. How would a forgotten spirit feel? Saddened? Excited? Perhaps free for the first time in countless generations? This seems to be the spirit (har har) of what Nena is feeling. What would that kind of freedom be like?
I’ll not spoil much, and even if I did, this book would still be worth the price. Greentea has taken a great approach to this story, minimizing dialogue and allowing the story to be swept along by the visually stunning work of Laura Muller. There is not an over-abundance of wordy character building. There are no long paragraphs of exposition to lead you where Ms. Greentea would have you go. This is a fairy tale. After the first page you find yourself blindly following the characters along. And as in a fairy tale you come to expect certain things from your characters. There will be a hero and a villain. (Though who is who?) There will be a trial to overcome, perhaps three since three is the magic fairy tale number, and the resolution at the end will most likely prove a valuable lesson. As I read this I found that, despite the dark subject matter and a concept heavy enough to take the air out of you, I was really enjoying it.
As I said before, Laura Muller has “arted” her way right into the top of my current indie favorites list. Her painted work in this book is light and airy, calling to mind the bright colors of the Mexican Day of the Dead festivals, the sugar skulls and the patterns on them find their way into the margins of the pages. She uses unusual and infrequent paneling to make each page look like a complete work, even when it is separated into panels and filled with dialogue balloons. She shows the free nature of Nena simply and perfectly, just by showing her running barefoot through the streets. There is a grace and playfulness to the character that Muller captures.
This is a superbly crafted story blended with fantastic art. This is a great example of a great pairing of talent. You can read the text or simply get the gist of the story by looking at the pictures. Nenetl of the Forgotten Spirits is a fantastic comic. Vera Greentea and Laura Muller ensured that it will be difficult to forget them for a very long time.
Follow Brad Gischia on Twitter: @comicwasteland