REVIEW: ‘Eighty Days’

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Eighty Days - But Why Tho

Eighty Days is the debut graphic novel of A. C. Esguerra, published by BOOM! Studios imprint Archaia. Jay Corvidae is perfectly content to be a freelance pilot, in the employ of AVO by necessity but certainly not a joiner. He still thinks he’s not a joiner when he meets Fix, a No-Class desperate for work so he can stay on his feet and support his folks back home. But when the AVO authorities come after Fix, Jay is betrayed by his best friend Sable.

Eighty Days is a story of resistance, of belonging, of believing, and of love. AVO is a clear Nazi analog, a dictatorial and industrial power that first monopolized the world’s aviation, a system that all nations rely on for trade and security. They, they invaded and became the sovereign power over most of the world, taking all of its citizens deemed worthy into its military-industrial complex by force, or else. While we’ve seen this type of maniacal power over and over, the avian theme feels fresh, unique, and awe-inspiring. Through each of its four parts, the book continuously unfolds its world at a perfect pace. It never flies too fast, so as not to be overwhelming, but by the end, its world feels full and lived in.

Jay is a quiet, somewhat broody type, which makes his relationship with Fix all the more fun, because Fix is bubbly and talkative. The at first slow build into their love for one another and then the fervor with which that passion burns forever after is enrapturing as the two struggle apart and together. But the book isn’t all about the two of them. Its other characters, from Sable to the rest of the cast each have captivating arcs. No character is wasted from beginning to end, always having a complete story, and I love Eighty Days all the more for that.

I also love it for how it changes narrators in each of its four parts. First Jay, then Sable, then Fix, and then all together they get turns at playing main character. It’s an ingenious narrative device that lets the reader deeper inside each of the characters’ heads in a way that most comics don’t with their fixed or omnipotent narrative styles. It’s also simply a fun creative exercise to witness over several hundred pages as each character’s dialogue and narration style differ just slightly. Keeping the narration fresh over the course of the book would be something that keeps it from getting dull, if there was ever a dull moment throughout in the first place.

Along with the narrative distinctions comes lettering distinctions as well. Much of the story is told through characters’ written notes. A number of creative plot devices help continue this tradition throughout the whole story so seamlessly I didn’t even think twice about it. But as they write their thoughts or missives for one reason or another, they each have distinct handwriting that helps you keep track of whose words belong to whom. I also just love this narrative device dearly. The written correspondences range from flight logs and personal notes to secret telegraphic love letters and hushed notes passed among resistance members. All and all the while the text boxes are most often easily trackable.

It’s not a perfect system. I did on occasion find myself confused who was speaking since there’s not a single uniform dialogue box shape or shading system to use to assign them to distinct characters. This was coupled with occasional panels that were drawn in such a way that I couldn’t tell what was occurring due to the shading outweighing the lines. But the art style is just amazing. It’s fully black and white with clear influence from Asian comic art styles, though never feeling like it’s fully in any particular culturally normative style. It’s just unique, with beautifully drawn and shaded characters and environments alike. The characters are clearly distinct and full of personality with their designs alone and I would greatly enjoy more comic work from Esguera in this style in the future.

Eighty Days has too many wonderful, beautiful, and tragic twists and turns to say much more without giving it away, but know that it is gorgeous, it is tragic, and it is full of so much love. I loved every moment of it as I nonstop turned its pages from cover to cover. Whether engrossing yourself in its story of rebellion, found family, queer love, or all of the above, it’s a masterful graphic novel.

Eighty Days is available digitally wherever comics are sold and will be available in hardcover on September 7th.

Eighty Days
5

TL;DR

Eighty Days has too many wonderful, beautiful, and tragic twists and turns to say much more without giving it away, but know that it is gorgeous, it is tragic, and it is full of so much love. I loved every moment of it as I nonstop turned its pages from cover to cover. Whether engrossing yourself in its story of rebellion, found family, queer love, or all of the above, it’s a masterful graphic novel.