Witches of Brooklyn by Sophie Escabasse, 240 pp, RL 4
Witches of Brooklyn by Sophie Escabasse
Published by RH Graphic
With Witches of Brooklyn, Escabasse, a French illustrator and comic artist living in Brooklyn, debuts a graphic novel that is so much and not enough. By not enough, I mean that, as I turned the last page of Witches of Brooklyn, I was left wanting more. More of Escabasse's enchanting illustrations, from characters to settings and very cool floor plans, more of her charming lettering (an assortment of fonts and weights), and more about the acupuncture/herbalist/witches and their niece! And, when I say there is so much, I mean that Escabasse's story is so rich with detail, layers and characters that, like all good graphic novels, you will want to read it again and again and will discover something new each time.
There are so many tropes when it comes to telling the story of a character discovering magical powers that it's a challenge to bring something new to the page. Yet Escabasse does this with the characters of Selimene and Carlota. When Selimene's much younger half-sister dies, she is surprised to learn that she has become the guardian of her niece, Effie. Selimene, who calls to mind a cross between Witch Hazel (from Looney Toons) and Edna Mode from The Incredibles, has a stellar sense of style for an old broad. With her big round glasses, Andy Warhol hair cut, chunky earrings, and carefully mismatched prints, Selimene is a visual delight (visit Escabasse's Instagram for more of Selimene's styles). Add to that her personality - she is a feisty rule breaker with a penchant for pet names that rivals those lovingly given by Julie Klausner's boyfriend on her show Difficult People. Carlota, the yin to Selimene's yang, is the calm, quiet presence, the anchor to this duo that becomes a trio.
The theme of this first in a trilogy is self-discovery, and it is expressed through more than one character. Effie, still grieving the loss of her mother, discovers some important things about herself, specifically that she is a witch who has the ability to bring two-dimensional things to life. As Effie is coming to learn these things about her true self, her aunts are dealing with vain pop star who has unwittingly turned her face red (vermillion to be exact). While the pop star needs to learn to be her authentic self (not the social media darling she has become) when she writes and sings, it is her assistant/childhood friend, Martin, in love with cooking and feeding people, who has the more interesting path in this story. In what could be a nod to where the storyline may go in the next two books, Effie, searching the secret witches' library (also a laboratory and greenhouse), discovers a tome on the Vermillion Witches, a sixteenth century coven who dedicated their lives to saving others after embarking on a personal quest for self-discovery. Be sure to take a good look at the witches in theimage in this book within a book. Escabasse uses it again on the final pages of her story.
Escabasse fills Witches of Brooklyn with many secondary and tertiary characters who are drawn with a range of skin tones and potential cultural backgrounds that are not expressed in this first book. We don't learn much about Effie's past, but she appears to be Asian and white, while Carlota and Selimene are both white. I can't WAIT to see what Effie, Selimene, Carlota and the rest of the Brooklyn crew get up to in the next two books in this trilogy!