Story by Iskwé & Erin Leslie | Script by David Alexander Robertson | Art by GMB Chomichuk
56 Pages | Paperback | Cover Price $18.95 | Published December 31, 2016
ISBN 978-1-55379-674-9 | Available from Portage and Main Press, Amazon, & your local bookstore
Trigger Warning: Violence Against Women. This warning is the first thing the reader sees after opening the cover to Will I See? and after reading it, I am appreciative that the publisher was aware enough to include it. This is a powerful story that weaves fantasy and reality to show the world the terrible reality of Indigenous women.
Will I See? is a tale of May, a young teenage girl, who after meeting a curious black cat, travels around her city finding keepsakes along the way. As she collects these keepsakes, the art becomes more shadowed, with a masterful display of overlapping a world of dreams, the past, and muddle knowledge with the stark and present reality. This contrast was powerful enough to make my skin crawl as I read it, dreading what would inevitably have to come. The line between the world of shadow, of fantasy, becomes further blurred after May’s kookum (grandmother) crafts a necklace out of the keepsakes – a traditional practice that is further explained after the story’s conclusion.
For me, the most powerful part of this story was the pure, honest nature of the interactions between May and her kookum. The day-to-day fears of a parent-figure, expressed strongly and clearly, but with a hint of regret that in order to best protect her granddaughter, she has no choice but to instill a healthy fear. All too often, stories that involve violence against women fail to express this grief-stricken acknowledgement of the tragedy of reality – Will I See? hits that mark better than anything I have read in recent memory.
Without spoiling the ending, don’t fret that this will be a depressing tale. While there is absolutely reason to be hurt, saddened, and frustrated – if you are none of those, I suspect you aren’t actually reading this story – there is hope and strength as well. Reassurance in the traditions and faith of an entire people shine through and provide a reminder to not give up, to not succumb entirely to despair.
Will I See? adds to a short list of comics that address the seemingly endless issue of violence against women – and one of the only ones I am aware of that focuses particularly Indigenous women. The need for these stories, combined with the masterful, hauntingly beautiful artwork make this a must-have title, not only for libraries, but for anyone – meaning, everyone – who works with those most at risk for violence.
* For those who may not immediately understand the ‘graphic medicine’ connection, I refer you to this WHO report on the massive global health implications of violence against women.
** For more on the troubling reality of missing Indigenous women in Canada, see this Human Rights Watch report.
*** I received an advance copy of this comic through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This review can also be found on Will I See?‘s Netgalley page.