The concept of stories told through art, or sequential art, is as old as human kind. There are many styles of graphic novels available nowadays–sophisticated, comic, nightmarish, smart, classic, moral, and so on. Too often, the graphic novel is undervalued as a literary contender and is seen too frequently to have no intellectual merit. It is unfortunate that some limit their expectations of what is and is not an appropriate format for storytelling. These people might be missing a wide array of great stories simply because pictures accompany the narration.
One such intelligent story that could be lost to those who will not read a graphic novel is I and You written by Beverly Garside and illustrated by Lucas Duimstra. At its core, I and You is a smart, moody narrative. I and You begins in the near future in a North America that is eerily similar to what it is today, yet it is vastly different. In this near future North America, continental borders have shifted, as have political structures. A contrary utopian, dystopian theme flows throughout the narrative driving the story.
The novel’s protagonist, Sara Storm, lives in the Randian Republic of Atlantis (RRA). It is a country formed from states running along the length of the Rocky Mountains. The RRA was founded in part on the objectivism philosophy of Ayn Rand where the individual is more important than the group. The republic is surrounded by the United Socialist States of America. The RRA is a country of individualists where the pronoun of “we” is not considered proper and is replaced with the self-centered “I and you”.
For all of its intelligence, I and You is hindered in three aspects: jarring narrative breaks, homogeneous artwork, and an assumption the reader has read Ayn Rand. There are several instances throughout the story where a plot device is given rather jarringly then dropped to be quickly tied up at a later point in the novel. The artwork took a bit of adapting to; the male characters were so similar in appearance that I sometimes wasn’t sure who was speaking. Aspects of Ayn Rand’s works and philosophy flowed through the novel but their meaning was not always apparent.
Despite a few minor weak spots, I and You is a very interesting story and well worth reading. I did not predict the ending, yet it was fitting and satisfying. Once I got used to the characters and their voices became clear, the black and white artwork enhanced the story and added to the mood of the narrative. Even the concepts of Ayn Rand’s ideas smoothed themselves out and elevated the intrigue running through I and You. Beverly Garside did a wonderful job showing her intention rather than explaining everything. I truly liked that I, the reader, was allowed to develop my own understanding of the background politics and so forth without being explained everything. I would highly recommend I and You for its thought provoking and absorbing story.
Nina Longfield is a writer living in Oregon’s fertile wine country. When she is not reading or writing in her spare time, Nina enjoys hiking in the hills surrounding her cabin.
Review copy was provided by Beverly Garside.