Review: “Coming Back” by Jessi Zabarsky

Release Date: January 18, 2022
Publisher: Random House Graphic
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Comics

Description

Preet is magic.

Valissa is not.

Everyone in their village has magic in their bones, and Preet is the strongest of them all. Without any power of her own, how can Valissa ever be worthy of Preet’s love? When their home is attacked, Valissa has a chance to prove herself, but that means leaving Preet behind. On her own for the first time, Preet breaks the village’s most sacred laws and is rejected from the only home she’s ever known and sent into a new world.

Divided by different paths, insecurities, and distance, will Valissa and Preet be able to find their way back to each other?

A beautiful story of two young women who are so focused on proving they’re meant to be together that they end up hurting each other in the process. This gorgeous graphic novel is an LGTBQ+ romance about young love and how it can grow into something strong no matter what obstacles get in the way.

My Thoughts

Coming Back is another win for author and illustrator Jessi Zabarsky. I adored her first comic, Witchlight, and her second comic inspired the same feelings of tenderness and quiet joy.

This is a story about two women, Valissa and Preet. They live on an island where children are souls reborn as seeds. Their culture requires each child to be raised by two parents (the gender of those parents doesn’t matter), no more and no less. Some islanders have the ability to do magic, either Shaping (creating or changing matter) or Shifting (altering themselves). Preet keeps busy in town, using her Shaping magic to improve the lives of her neighbors. Valissa, however, has no magic and had to settle with running the massive underground library that stores all their history and cultural knowledge. 

The sudden appearance of a frightening mist rips the two women apart. Valissa descends into the depths of the library to find a way to stop the mist while Preet breaks a cultural taboo and is kicked off her island. To find each other again, they must find themselves first. 

Zabarsky explores not just queerness but truth. Valissa and Preet have spent their lives strictly adhering to tradition, but once they have the chance to see other ways of living, that tradition starts to feel like a box or a cage. It’s tempting to write a story like this and have the characters completely shun their old lives and write the tradition-keepers as sinister villains. This comic has a more nuanced approach. Here is an opportunity to remind people that tradition isn’t set in stone; it changes and grows with its people. Preet and Valissa long for a home that never felt quite welcoming, so they help their friends open their eyes and minds to new possibilities.

The artwork is quirky and interesting. You’ll never mistake Zabarsky’s illustrations for anyone else. The two main characters are fat, and most of the humans have various shades of brown skin. Her color palette is muted but never boring or flat. It reads well, with the speech bubbles and panel layout flowing easily that will make readers who are new to comics feel comfortable with the format. 
Coming Back will make a good addition to a library’s Teen/YA collection.

Buy it at bookshop.org (affiliate link).

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