cover image Angola Janga: Kingdom of Runaway Slaves

Angola Janga: Kingdom of Runaway Slaves

Marcelo D’Salete, trans. from the Portuguese by Andrea Rosenberg. Fantagraphics, $39.99 (432p) ISBN 978-1-683961-91-8

The final decades of struggle against Portuguese colonialism in Brazil are retold in this sweeping, monumental graphic novel, which follows slaves who have escaped sugar plantations as they form thriving villages deep in the unfriendly jungle. Eisner winner D’Salete focuses on several characters—particularly Zumbi, the leader of Macaco, a large village in a region known as Angola Janga—with key scenes widening the narrative scope, such as a blockbuster-worthy battle between ruthless bounty hunters and fugitives. Backstories reveal the depths of inherited dehumanization: Zumbi runs from a relatively safe position, after white boys taunt him with a manacle and he maims one of them; while warrior Soares attacks the heir to the plantation he works after being denied promised emancipation, and then flees. As the communities establish self-governance, broken promises lead to repeated dashed hopes, as when Zona, adviser to Zumbi, turns informant, believing a shifty governor’s peace offer. Subplots about colonizers and colonized alike bring to life history rife with messy contradictions, such as a scene where the motherly Curiva tries to stamp out the optimism clung to by the young Dara, only to be dumbfounded when it leads to freedom. The stark, handsome art is rendered in heavily shaded linework, which recalls woodcuts, with wordless sections reminiscent of Flood! by Eric Drooker. D’Salate’s bold, often bloody, action-filled scenes combine to form a magnificent history of resistance. (June)