For the residents of Yopougon, everyday life is good. It is the early 1970s, a golden time – work is plentiful, hospitals are clean and well equipped, and school is obligatory. The Ivory Coast is as an island of relative wealth and stability in West Africa. For the teenagers of the town, though, worries are plentiful, and life in Yop City is far from simple. Aya tells the story of its 19-year-old heroine, the clear-sighted and bookish Aya, and her carefree and fun-loving friends Adjoua and Bintou…
When the first volume of Aya debuted in 2007 it was to plenty of well-deserved critical acclaim and I named it as one of my favourite graphic novels of the year. It rightfully gained a Quill Award nomination, and praise for its accessibility and for the rare portrait of a warm and vibrant Africa it presented.
Aya of Yop City is the continuation of this beautifully-told story by Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie, with life in 1970s Yop City as dramatic as ever. The original cast of characters is back in full force, with a case of questionable paternity fanning the flames of activity in the community. The new mother, Adjoua, has her friends to help with the baby, perhaps employing Aya a bit too frequently, while a new romance leaves Bintou with little time for her friends, let alone their responsibilities.
The young women aren’t the only residents of Yopougon involved in the excitement, however; Aya’s father is caught in the midst of his own trysts and his employer’s declining Solibra beer sales — a storyline that brings this volume to a dramatic conclusion — and Adjoua’s brother finds his share of the city’s nightlife.
From the miscreant antics of deceitful men such as Gregoire, persuading several women he is a rich man back from Paris while in reality he is as poor as them, to the innocence of Aya, unaware of her father’s indiscretions, to cameo scenes as the girls deal with both wanted and unwanted male attention, Aya of Yop City maintains and indeed, surpasses the twists and turns of the original volume.
Oubrerie’s artwork synchronizes perfectly to Abouet’s funny and lighthearted writing, delivering a heart-warming, humour yet also angst-filled tale filled with genuine emotion and superb storytelling and even stronger characterisation than the first book in the series. It’s great to see this second volume available in the UK — I just hope we don’t have to wait too long for the third, Aya and Friends, due for release in the US in June from Drawn & Quarterly, to find out what happens to Aya and her family.
I also recommend Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie’s Aya, the first volume of this story: a simply wonderful, beautifully illustrated tale of life in an African city with none of the Western stereotyping of the continent in sight. In Aya, lives are lived, hearts broken, romances kindled. There is no famine, no war, simply life as you’d expect on the streets of London or New York with all the complications that entails — except the backdrop is the Ivory Coast, brought to vivid life by Clement Oubrerie’s gorgeous art.
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.
Categories: British Comics