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Ojo by Sam Kieth
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Oct 17, 2009

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bookshelves: graphic-novel
Recommended to new_user by: Kathryn
Read in October, 2009

** spoiler alert ** So I read this, Four Women, and Zero Girl. Out of the three, Ojo most appeals to someone like me looking for more meaning than comic book. It's the most realistic and the least "colorful," literally and figuratively. I don't mean to say that there's no life to this book, but it's more subtle.

To all appearances, Annie is about a girl who can't keep pets, but Annie's relationships with her pets, especially the most fantastical of the set, is an extended analogy to her relationship with her dead mother. At every turn, when Annie is told to let go of her pet Ojo, she refuses, "He needs me," or rather, she needs her mother. She is as unwilling to part with her mother, taken from her in a tragic car accident, as she is the little monster.

As Annie goes on, she learns to "mother" her bizarre friend, and we learn about Annie's view of her mother's death. "Feeding mom makes the baby one better." As long as mum is doing well, baby is too. Eventually, Annie comes to an understanding with her mother's death, but the journey there is interesting, especially Annie's relationship with her older, fourteen-year-old sister, who views Annie's childish coping fantasies of their mother incarnated into a drainpipe monster as disrespectful to their mother's memory. As their mother's death remains unspoken in their home, it is not unreasonable that Annie would fashion her mother into a monster hidden yet ever looming in their lives, but her sister responds by torturing Annie in typical adolescent fashion, which, while understandable for a pubescent girl in pain, is quite cruel to Annie. That's painful to read, and it is the most visibly realistic element of the book, enough to make the reader wonder whether Kieth has had some personal experience with this. Ojo is not the only of his works to handle a mother's death, and he does mention in interviews that he grew up with "dominant women." He wouldn't be the first comic book artist to blame his insecurities on women, but in one scene, amongst others, when Annie says, "I wish you weren't so mean," and her sister replies, "Me too," it's too true to life.

At any rate, both girls are unable to communicate their grief to each other. One of her sister's tactics is to blame Annie for their mother's death, and when she can't keep an animal alive, Annie believes her. This may be where Ojo derives his meaning. Ojo in Spanish being "eye," or more popularly "the evil eye" (often blue, as depicted here) with which look someone can curse another person, Annie believes that her touch has been a blight on her mother. Given that the story begins with Annie in a long shot observering from afar as her parents watch TV, this may be literal; she may have wished her mother to give her more attention, and this may also be the source of her self-blame when her mother afterwards dies.

However, a child's reasoning is not always logical, and Annie's self-blame can as easily derive, just as her grandfather's does for his own parent's passing, from no apparent cause. Eventually, through the help of a magical trout, Annie realizes she is not to blame for her mother's death and she knows that she must let her go. This is accomplished when the family finally acknowledges the mother's death and provides some closure with a ceremony. Her mother is Mexican, so Annie suggests an All Saints' ritual. Later, she conducts her own ritual. She lets little Ojo go to his mother, and the drainpipe monster ("Mama") disappears. Whether or not Annie believed her mother had given her her due of attention in life and death, she seems content to allow her to rest when her drawings of her mother suddenly go from one-eyed monsters to what appear to be sun-like circles of light.

I very much liked the eerie, sketchy art. Sometimes realistic, sometimes comical, the panels were as shifting as I expect a child's view can be-- or perhaps Kieth was just experimenting. The art is much more varying than I've seen in his other work.

I give it 3.5 stars. I would have liked the symbolism to be less overt, i.e. had Annie not overtly named the drainpipe monster her mother. I prefer some room for interpretation. Some of the dialogue also speaks like exposition rather than lifelike speech, which I would consider fitting in a largely symbolic story if I had not seen this mistake made in his less symbolic works. He slips. Overall, however, a good, quick work on handling grief. Definitely not horror, LOL.
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Reading Progress

10/12/2009 "Good!" 4 comments
10/12/2009 "Finished Issue 1." 2 comments
10/12/2009 "Finished Issue 2."
10/14/2009 "I got a chance for some enjoyment reading today, finally. Hehe."
10/14/2009 "Finished Issue 4. Oh, snap! What have you done, little Annie?"
10/14/2009 page 128
100.0% "Awww. Sad. :'(" 4 comments

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Rane (new)

Rane Great Review NU~!


new_user Thanks, Rane. :)


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