Manu by Venessa Kelley, a story about belonging and purpose, does excellent with pacing and tension. It’s a narrative with a fierce heart.
Manu’s powers awaken during the night Hurricane Arcidia hit Puerto Rico, saving her family. However, she doesn’t remember that childhood memory. In the present, Manu lives in New York City where she performs music under the name Rosie. When she receives news of her grandmother dying from an illness, she has no choice but to return to Puerto Rico. There, she learns about her destiny as a medium.
Personally, Manu evokes the feeling of home and family. The story summons the desire to belong. Since moving to New York with her family, she’s lost her fluency in Spanish. Her father shuns her after finding her kissing another girl (her best friend). Years later, her mother and sister move back to Puerto Rico following her father’s death. Manu remains in New York and sends over money to her surviving family to help with groceries and other expenses. But her sister, Estrella, resents her for staying behind. The family dynamics and Manu’s distance resonate with me. As a Puerto Rican away from the island for several decades, I understand the loss of cultural connections when reading the parts featuring Manu and her grandmother.
Manu’s grandmother dominates the panels featuring her, the dialogue between her and Manu vibrating with power. The creator seamlessly interweaves critical information and stakes into the dialogue without overwhelming the target audience.
While this online graphic novel is still in progress, the story so far does a fantastic job setting up for what’s to come for Manu.
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Author: Brahidaliz Martinez
Brahidaliz (pronounced Bra-da-leez) is a 2019 graduate of American University’s MFA in creative writing program. Their cross-genre chapbook, Coquí’s Song, is forthcoming (2023) from Mason Jar Press.
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