Comic Review: Two Brothers

Two Brothers
Written by Gabriel Ba, Fabio Moon
Art by Gabriel Ba, Fabio Moon
Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: October 14, 2015

When you encounter literary snobs who turn their noses up at graphic novels, Two Brothers will shut them up. Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba have adapted Milton Hatoum’s award-winning Dois Irmãos (translated into 13 languages including English, entitled The Brothers).

Two Brothers is a 230-page opus delivering a complex story revolving around twin brothers Omar and Yaqub. (Note the irony? Moon and Ba are also Brazilian twin brothers.) Four years in production, this sprawling family history jumps through time in ten chapters, bursting with dramatic panels.

Ba’s art employs a riveting contrast of black and white, rarely resorting to grayscale textures. The romance and drama of monochrome images carry the reader through each chapter, drifting through scenes of Brazil’s port city of Manau across a span of decades. The team deftly reworks text from the source material to provide dialogue and narration without distracting from the visual storytelling that carries the work. Both words and pictures contribute to the theme of contrast and conflict. My favorite panel capturing a backlit barn (pg. 61) demonstrates masterful use of the pen and ink medium.

My only critique of this beautiful project relates to pacing. It feels like the director’s cut, and a stronger editing hand might have provided more satisfying force. There are threads of story that promise to weave together later, but never actually do, and the overall length tests a reader’s commitment. Nevertheless, this review of the original novel could easily have been written about Two Brothers: “Atmospheric, passionate, enigmatic, this is a mesmerizing if sometimes frustratingly slow journey to the heart of a family.”

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