cover image Hot Comb

Hot Comb

Ebony Flowers. Drawn & Quarterly, $22.95 trade paper (184p) ISBN 978-1-77046-348-6

Flowers’s exploration of black women’s relationships to their hair is rich with both sorrow and celebration as it champions black womanhood and family ties. In a series of comics vignettes, Flowers journeys through a first salon trip, a long-running case of trauma-generated trichotillomania (obsessive hair-pulling), and the collision of pain and piety that is a beloved matriarch’s funeral. How black hair is treated (literally and symbolically) becomes the lens to explore both oppression and community. In the title story, her mother frets over the loss of Flowers’s carefree innocence as she receives her first perm, while another installment shares her younger sister’s excruciating visibility as the only black girl on her softball team. Her portrayal of motherhood is particularly affecting: only in the company of other women, engaging in the intimate rituals of hair care, do mothers voice their joy, worry, and anger. The artwork is joyfully tangled, its densely looped lines creating panels that reflect the characters’ crowded environs (with witty reproductions of classic hair care ads interspersed); Lynda Barry is credited as Flowers’s mentor, and her style influence is apparent in this exuberance. Flowers’s vibrant and immersive coming-of-age tales are set in a world that may often be cruel, but is never without communion (and some funny moments)—even if she’s got to endure a few chemical burns along the way. [em](May) [/em]