Graphic Novel Review: Aspara Engine by Bishakh Som

Aspara Engine by Bishakh Som. The Feminist Press at CUNY, 2020. 9781936932818. 250pp. Oversized, full color.

The eight stories in Bishakh Som’s oversized graphic novel have such subtle colors that, in some case, I wondered if I was imagining the tint of the ink wash. It’s a marvelous effect, and it goes hand in hand with conversations that feel both real and unreal, and with story elements both fantastic and futuristic. I can’t recommend this book enough, but it’s hard to talk about without spoiling things. Issues of gender, identity and queerness are addressed in many of the stories. There’s a mermaid, a “pet” that freaked me out, a humiliated “stalker” who I somehow felt a little bad for, and an unexpected, elegant bit of time travel

It’s worth noting that I started reading Aspara Engine a few times before my brain clicked with its pace, and then I couldn’t put it down. I’m currently enjoying Som’s graphic memoir, Spellbound, and I plan to read her graphic history of prefab bathrooms at some point soon, too.


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