Drawing of a black young woman wearing a blue burqa and the words Far Tune Autumn

“Words ‘n pictures, you can do anything with words ‘n pictures,” the late Harvey Pekar, writer of the “American Splendor” series famously said of the comics medium. Anyone wishing to see a concrete example of Pekar’s quote need only pick up a copy of the Columbus-produced graphic novel "Far Tune," written by Terry Eisele and illustrated by Brent Bowman. 

The "Far Tune" of the title is a play on words, referring both to the name of the young Somali protagonist, whose name is Fartun, as well as to the song she shares with her late mother, who dies in a refugee camp in the story's prologue. Weighty issues are tackled in "Far Tune;" culture clash, religious conflict (most effectively, WITHIN the Islamic religion), generational schisms, and notions of class and gender. Although one could call “Far Tune” a young adult graphic novel, anyone of any age could read it and re-think the circumstances of their own lives in this large and prosperous nation we share. 

Brent Bowman's illustrations feature clean lines and imaginative layout that perfectly match Eisele's story and dialogue. Particularly well handled are a moody prologue in Somalia and an almost Jack Kirby-esque soccer game that happens about three quarters of the way though, in which everything seems to be moving even they are single panels in which nothing actually moves. There is also a terrific speech by Fartun's Imam to his congregation about the current state of Islam along with where he sees it going. One of Eisele’s achievements is that you could take that speech, remove the word "Islam" and have it be relevant to the name of whatever religion you wanted to substitute. 

In the excellent graphic novel "With Only Five Plumbs," Eisele shed light on a little-known facet of the history of World War II. Here, he goes against the grain of the day by portraying a young immigrant (and a young immigrant MUSLIM woman! SHRIEK in terror!) who is open, bright, and optimistic, despite her hardscrabble life. "Far Tune" is one of those rare graphic novels that stretches the medium even as it provides a comics verite-style look at a community largely unknown to most of us.  The questions the book poses are both huge and small. What does immigration do for the United States? Is it to be feared or embraced? Do we truly have a polyglot society? Can one be accepted into that society? If so, how does one find the ever-shifting line between keeping one’s cultural identity and losing it? 

“Far Tune” is a rare and special find; we should all be very proud that it came out of the Columbus comics community.

 

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