Books Comics and Graphic Novels

Tangerina, by Rita Alfaiate

This is another excellent edition from Escorpião Azul, which makes this book a double surprise. It is, in itself, an excellent work of comics, and it is rare for a book by this publisher to have such high quality. Perhaps it’s a prejudice of mine, fueled the feeling that books edited by this publishing house appear to have zero editing, or author counseling for graphic and narrative improvement. This is a problem that Tangerina does not have, because it is a necessarily careful work, developed as a result of the author's master's thesis.

I don’t know how thesis guidance in Fine Arts courses are conducted, but I suspect that’s not too different from other areas. It requires careful counseling, and progressive improvement until being considered finished and ready to present. This,of course, if you’re lucky with the thesis advisor. Despite the rigor of academic contexts, at the end the thesis work is quite similar to real edition, which isn’t only printing the books.

I know. One of these days I risk being cornered in a dark alley by a member of Escorpião Azul’s editing tem, which will be able to take physical revenge for my usual criticism of their work. But if I criticise their approach, it’s because as a reader I feel somewhat defrauded by their books. They give editorial space to new talents in Portuguese comics (and this is extremely fundamental), but in fact, much of what they edit would be more appropriate in a zine than in a book. Too much of their books, that I’ve read, gave me the feeling that the authors are not yet ready for prime time, needing an editorial look to help improve and evolve narrative and visual style.. But despite their flaws, thankfully Escorpião Azul edits.. Otherwise, it would be almost impossible for the work of these new authors to reach the edition. And in the case of Rita Alfaiate, it’s clear that she is more than ready for prime time.


What grabbed at first glance  was the author’s strong graphic design. “Ah, what is this book, so mangaish in its style”, commented a friend when they saw me holding it. The Japanese aesthetic influence is very evident in this work, which does not surprise me. The younger generations have learned the power of image by watching anime and reading manga, as previous generations did through Comics or Franco-Belgian style. Manga is the culture and style that seduced them, so its influence is to be expected.

But don’t be fooled, this isn’t another one of those books just imitating manga stylisms. Rita Alfaiate’s style is mature and personal. Owes much to Japanese iconography, but has evolved into her own individual style. It’s fluid, and sometimes when needed, aggressive and heavy. And always very expressive.

The story is another good surprise, a very dark tale of pure horror. The young protagonist will come across monsters, not those that come from the sleep of reason, but those of myths and the taste for blood latent in the human soul. What seems to be a story of a child displaced to a new environment, with difficulty integrating into a new city, quietly evolves into pure horror. We hardly feel this path, even when we realize at the end of the narrative that the author left us a huge clue as to what she really wanted to tell us at the beginning. Tangerine, in this respect, reminded me of I Kill Giants, by Kelly and Niimura, which has a portuguese edition by Kingpin Books, although (beware the giant spoiler) the monster fighter turns out to be another victim of the great monster of Rita Alfaiate’s book.

With solid, expressive and seductive graphics, and a subtly evolving horror story, Tangerina is an excellent work on the aesthetic and narrative levels. Above all, it’s a good read, one that grabs the reader and lingers in its memory after the turning of the last few pages.

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