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Two Brothers

Two Brothers Two Brothers Two Brothers Two Brothers

Two Brothers back

Gabriel Ba & Fabio Moon


Page 45 Review by Stephen

Yaqub, come... give your brother a hug.
From now on, life will be better. Everything improves after the end of a war.

But which war is Omar and Yaqub's father referring to? I see no peace treaties let alone offerings in this tense household. The two brothers, after five years apart, stare quietly into each other's eyes, their expressions impossible to read.

As intense as any book I've read for some years, for all the Brazilian sunshine outside it is the brooding atmosphere within the luxurious homestead which dominates this doomed, generational saga. It is rank with resentment and forever threatened by possessive jealousy, while exploding all too often with a callous, hedonistic disregard on Omar's part so long as he gets what he wants.

It is rendered with all the confidence in the world in the warmest black and white possible. At first I thought of 100 BULLETS' Eduardo Risso but, when you study the ornate textures of the furniture thrown into shadow and the curved, heavy silhouettes which loom large, there is far more of the Mike Mignola and - in some of the expressions and the stylised buildings, the trees and their trunks - the perfectly judged shorthand of Marc Hempel.

The ageing process is particularly well handled, and I don't just mean that the characters acquire lines, grey hairs or whiskers. It's in how actions and time take their toll on their bodies, their postures, their energies and what their instantly recognisable but transmuted expressions then project. Zana maintains her glamour to old age. Her earrings and collar go unchanged for decades after settling in at an attractively fashionable middle age and she resolutely refuses to let her coiffeur subside. Her blouse moves up with dignity to cover her chest and her arched, pencilled eyebrows are as high on her forehead as ever, but her hooded eyes droop down with exhaustion, disappointment and scorn.

It begins near the end with the matriarch Zana having to leave everything behind including her household now empty and echoing with the ghosts of her father, husband and sons. Everything she had ever wanted, everything she had fought for, spied for, connived for is gone.

But seriously, what did the mother expect would happen? And why did the father never act?

The twins' father Halim never wanted children. He wanted sex. His passion for Zana was sincere, his loyalty unwavering to a fault. He warned of what would happen if his wife continued to treat the boys as she did, but he always caved in to her wishes. He never knew his own father so perhaps he never knew how to be one. He observed the results of overindulging Omar's pleasure-seeking but failed to discipline him until it was too late.

Zana's sudden declaration that she desired children came on the death of her father. Although Halim knew they would rob him of his private pleasures, he complied, and two years later the twins were born, followed by a daughter called Rânia. Beforehand, however, a nun had offered them an orphan called Domingas whom they adopted as a servant, and it is she who observes most of what follows, passed down in turn to her son.

It was to Domingas' care that the elder twin Yaqub was fobbed off while Zana lavished all her love and attention on Omar - often ill during the early months - to an excessive, bewildering degree.

Initially the boys' behaviour wasn't markedly different - they both loved to climb, fish and run around with glee - even if Omar sometimes left Yaqub trailing in his dust. But then, aged thirteen, there were two fateful nights, the first at a Carnival ball at the Benemous' mansion. Yaqub had eyes for a beautiful girl called Livia but was told by his mother to take his young sister home. On his return he was shocked to discover that his brother had taken his place in the young girl's arms.

That, however, was as nothing compared to an evening soon afterwards during the projection of a film in a blacked out room after Livia joined Yaqub on a seat he'd saved for her at the front. At the back, Omar seethed. Until an opportunity presented itself...

And you know what I said about the feckless father? No, there was no recrimination to speak of and no discipline at all. Instead the twins were subsequently separated, Yaqub sent to the Lebanon to learn other languages leaving Zana to spoil Omar further.

Five years later Yaqub returned, which is where we came in.

Yaqub, come... give your brother a hug.
From now on, life will be better. Everything improves after the end of a war.

The war has only just begun.

From the creators of DAYTRIPPER and DE:TALES, it's another graphic novel that may make you sit and think.

The story is laid out in layers, temporal strata which the narrator digs up - not necessarily in the order in which the events originally occurred - in an effort to get to the bottom of what continued to go so very wrong, and why. The sons come and go and, as you'd expect by now, one of those sons' absence being tolerated, indeed welcomed more than the other's. It is the story of a mother who will not let go, a father who becomes bitter and resentful, and two brothers who prove a perfect case study in nature and nurture.

The narrator, I would remind you, is the son of the family's servant Domingas. He has no idea who his father is, but he has his suspicions.