Monday, August 19, 2013

Gone to Amerikay

Written by Derek McCulloch
Art by Colleen Doran

I knew going in that I'd be impressed with this book.  Gone to Amerikay is drawn by the gifted artist Colleen Doran, is a historical tale, and the type of graphic novel that Vertigo just doesn't seem to publish anymore (despite the fact that this book is only a year old, it feels like it's from an earlier era of risk-taking and quality work at the DC imprint, one that has been traded in for returns to the well, and Fables side-projects).

The book is set in New York, showing three different eras.  In 1870, Ciara O'Dwyer arrives in the city with her young daughter, coming ahead of her husband who never actually arrives.  Ciara has to learn to make ends meet on her own, although she is soon helped by a mysterious young man she knew in the old country.

In 1960, the newly arrived Johnny McCormack can't wait to make his mark in the music or theatre world.  His close friend (who becomes very close) helps him out in this regard, but their partnership leads Johnny towards some personal problems.

In 2010, Lewis Healy, a very rich Irish businessman, and his wife Sophie, arrive in New York for a trip that Sophie has arranged.  She wants to take her husband around to various parts in the city where McCormack and O'Dwyer lived and worked, seeing as the strange connection between these two is what inspired Healy in life.

Derek McCulloch has put together a very interesting look at the immigrant experience and the history of New York.  The book is meticulously researched and each era is shown with a sense of authenticity.  Doran excels at this type of work - her characters are always very believable, and she has real skill at showing the different time periods.  I especially liked the way that parallels were found between the different stories, with the art often bleeding from one time to the next with a similarly parallel structure.

I wish there were more historical graphic novels of this level of quality being produced.  A truly excellent read.

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