A misdialed number leads to a long distance relationship in this Queer webcomic that navigates themes of diaspora, found family, and religion.
Taking place in the Middle East and Central Asia regions (like Salwa and Kazakhstan), BUUZA!! by Shazleen Khan begins on New Year’s Eve (1997). Zach, a sex line operator, is collecting donations under the pretense of giving to the poor. When he gets caught, he flees the restaurant. Later on, in his shared flat, he receives a phone call from a distressed man who thought he was calling emergency services. The story then reveals that the man’s name is Zhen, although Zach doesn’t get to speak to him again for a while after.
Life happens; the boiler at Zach’s flat explodes, and he has to find another place to stay. When he finally gets back into contact with Zhen, the two start a long distance relationship. But like Zach, Zhen’s got his own issues to deal with, including a family secret that had led to his mental health crisis back in 1997.
This webcomic amazes me in several ways. First, the setting. The characters hail from various nationalities, cultural identities, religions, and ethnicities. Intersectional identities involving ability and class, along with sexual and gender diverse characters, are included as well. BUUZA!! tells a story about connections and forgiveness. Both Zach and Zhen strive for personal connections and reconciliation with the past.
BUUZA!! also includes elements of the urban fantasy genre, from people who can transform into animals to stargazing (see image above). The magic, while not central to the story, is naturally woven into the characters’ lives. The webcomic’s title refers to the steamed mutton dumpling dish with vegetables. What’s impressive about BUUZA!! is that the religions and magic in this alternate world don’t serve as a spectacle like in some urban fantasy (especially paranormal/supernatural stories). As with the cultures and traditions, the magic system and beliefs are part of daily life.
For more great webcomic recommendations, check out our Wednesday Webcomics archives!
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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