REVIEW: ‘Onion Skin’

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Onion Skin - But Why Tho?

Onion Skin is an original graphic novel written, illustrated, and translated into English by Edgar Camacho. The book is the inaugural winner of Mexico’s National Young Graphic Novel Award and is published in the United States by IDW imprint Top Shelf Productions. Onion Skin is the story of Rolando, who is very stuck in life, and Nera, who is very much not.

Onion Skin is not a linear story. It starts off now with no words, only images, and then jumps straight back some time ago, displaying Rolando’s nadir of depression and despondency. He’s been (purposefully) fired from his job after breaking his drawing hand, is running out of money, and his roommates, supportive as they are trying to be, just don’t cut it. Until he meets Nera, a free spirit with whom he immediately clicks and schemes up a dream just wild enough to break his rut without breaking him.

It’s a really beautiful story. The nonlinearity was confusing at first because it seamlessly hops back and forth in time without super strong visual cues to indicate when a panel is taking place. But once I got the hang of it, it made for a really lovely storytelling device. Showing Rolando back and forth at his worst and at his best, as well as somewhere still in between, helped make him a really loveable character. It made me want to understand how he got into the wild chase in the first few pages of the book from the low point we see him in soon thereafter.  It also helped give Nera this extra layer of mystery to her as a person. Her motives and direction were always strong and clear, but it put me in the same shoes Rolando must have been when he first met this person who would soon become so important to him.

There is a strange, almost fantasy element going on that at first I thought would be a genuine fantasy piece until it became clear it was somewhat more of a metaphor. I’m still not completely sure I understand it, but something about the way Rolando’s depression and the nonlinearity of the story still have me fixated on it, even if I don’t completely get it. What I do get in its entirety, though, is how the book uses food and cooking to drive its point. Rolando and Nera have no clue how to cook, but they’re determined to start a food truck anyway because ultimately, as long as you’ve got the right passion and the right spice, what could go wrong?

The art style is nice and simple in Onion Skin. The lack of extreme stylization and its minimalist, non-photorealistic look make it feel more down to earth, matching the type of intimate story it is telling. The colors are somewhat dim since it takes place in a desert city, but the few moments of apparent fantasy contrast everything else with intense neon. My only complaint is with the lettering, which looks very printed-on and out of place in a book that otherwise feels so handcrafted.

Onion Skin is a meaningful piece of art that you can tell its creator put a lot of his own heart into. Its nonlinear storytelling and simple art style make it feel lived-in and heighten the emotional value.

Onion Skin is available wherever comics are sold.

Onion Skin
4.5

TL;DR

Onion Skin is a meaningful piece of art that you can tell its creator put a lot of his own heart into. Its nonlinear storytelling and simple art style make it feel lived-in and heighten the emotional value.