Review: ‘Aquicorn Cove’
by Katie O’Neill
Oni Press, $12.99
The author of The Tea Dragon Society returns with a graphic novel bound to satisfy her audience. As in her previous book, Aquicorn Cove has the same beautifully colored images, the same confident, sometimes wordless storytelling, similar relationships with unusual creatures, and a corresponding message about the necessity for balance with nature.
Lana and her father have come to visit her Aunt Mae in a coast-side town cleaning up after a substantial storm. Lana’s mother is gone, but Lana still has great memories of time spent with her on the beach. While checking on the damage, Lana discovers a baby aquicorn, a seahorse-like creature that needs nursing back to health.
O’Neill has once again created unusual but welcome characters. Mae, for instance, is a strong, brawny woman with a darker skin tone than red-headed Lana. Does that reflect Lana’s mother’s background or just more time spent outdoors? It doesn’t matter, and it’s not mentioned, but it contributes to the current yet timeless feel of the story.
Lana and her father help with the replanting and repairs during the day, and at night, Lana and Mae roast fresh-caught fish and observe the stars that can’t be seen from Lana’s city dwelling. It’s an ideal life, one that raises thoughts of enjoyment of and respect for the ocean. Would that more of us could live such a simple, responsible existence.
O’Neill’s pages aren’t clean-edged. Although the panels are often simple squares or rectangles, there are sometimes gaps where they meet up. They don’t always line up exactly, which adds to the mood of time passing, with individual moments captured from the flow of the scene. Also, it evokes the setting of the story, in an area recovering from a near natural disaster with broken fragments.
There are fantastic elements and more family connections as the story continues, but the underlying message is practical: humans cannot continue taking more and more without giving back. But it’s also a story about accepting and living with loss, with the tale of what happened to Lana’s mother. Due to her experiences, Lana learns to stand up for herself and what she believes in, an inspiring result from this impressively lovely modern fairy tale.
Johanna Draper Carlson has been reviewing comics for over 20 years. She manages ComicsWorthReading.com, the longest-running independent review site online that covers all genres of comic books, graphic novels, and manga. She has an MA in popular culture, studying online fandom, and was previously, among many other things, webmaster for DC Comics. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.
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