Fights: One Boy’s Triumph Over Violence

Joel Christian Gill. Oni, $19.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-5493-0335-7
An impoverished and violent childhood provides the background to this stirring memoir from Gill (Strange Fruit)—but it’s the kindness and strength that he found in those circumstances that makes his story unforgettable. During his fragmented youth, Gill was shuffled through schools, homes, and social cliques as the child of a single mother. Though he found solace where he could (memorably in chess, music, and libraries), the disorder of his life inculcated a violent streak that wore him down as much as it kept him safe from predators. He endures sexual abuse at home, bullying in school, and is ultimately pushed into young manhood with only the barest understanding of human kindness—and yet he manages to discover the joy of art, the tenderness of first love, and ironclad friendship. In the tradition of Geoffrey Canada’s Fist, Stick, Knife, Gun, Gill’s empathy for his younger self and the children he grew up alongside elevates his singular story into a passionate plea for neglected children everywhere. Gill draws himself and the kids around him as struggling against a rising tide of murky water: some of them learn to swim in this sea of aggression, while some are lost within its depths. His visuals are disarmingly whimsical (they’d be at home on Nickelodeon), with a palette unafraid of bright greens, purples, and oranges that emphasizes his youthful self’s vulnerability and capacity for joy. Beyond a recounting of a hardscrabble upbringing, Gill’s memoir becomes an ode to claiming peace from the experience of violence—and passing that gift on to others. (Jan.)
Reviewed on : 11/07/2019
Release date: 01/01/2020
Genre: Comics
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