Review: An Iranian Metamorphosis


When it comes to the plight of refugees worldwide, it is sad to say that the general public doesn’t have a good understanding of the situation. It was very disheartening to hear that the ideals we stand on, to help those who can’t help themselves, has become one of self idolization and overwhelming xenophobic paranoia. Nevertheless, this is not isolated to our country but is a far too common worldwide perspective, refugees are more a nuisance than people who fear for their safety.

Every country has their own agendas and their own unique problems leading refugees to flee to certain countries and avoiding others. The journey for most of them is perilous and is often met with hostility everywhere they go. This is truly the contrast between first and third world problems. There are those to choose to see it and others who don’t because it doesn’t affect them. In Mana Neyestani’s brilliant and harrowing An Iranian Metamorphosis he documents and contextualizes the plight of these refugees in this searing collection of his vaunted comic strip.

We’re taken to 2006 Turkey, where a young Mana is learning his trade, under the guise of a hardened editor, one that would make him both a skilled storyteller and master soothsayer.  In the first chapter, he would find out what it is to come under fire for telling the truth in his comic strips while working for a local newspaper in Tehran. In the second chapter, his comic strips would not only catch the attention of the authorities but would also lead him to be jailed for it. In the third chapter, he found out about the lengths that the government would go to extract the truth, which is where we find out about the days of torture he would endure. In the fourth and fifth chapters, violence and media censorship would start to rise, even without Mana’s influence and even though he was not directly involved, his sentence would be extended. In the sixth, he and his friend, Mehdrad would be put into solitary confinement together, facing endless days together, imagining a world going on without them, as if they were shipwrecked, but before it could get any worse, Mehdrad gets sick. In the seventh chapter, he would get sent to a new section for white crimes, where he was given a new name and identity, where Mana makes a discovery by happenstance. In the eighth and ninth chapters,  Mana and Mehdrad would make new friends/acquaintances, in jail for nonviolent crimes, but some, were mentally disturbed,  and some were just drug addicts, who suffered from withdrawals nightly.  In the tenth and eleventh chapters, he would get a 10-day pass from jail, where he and his wife would seek asylum with the French embassy and on a whim would fly to Dubai, never to see his family ever again.  In the twelfth and thirteenth chapters, he would endure a new reality in Dubai, as his asylum case would be called into question by the French, leaving him and his wife in limbo. In the fourteenth and fifteenth chapters, they would venture to Kuala Lumpur, as their hopes lie in suspension until the French Embassy made a determination and eventually to China, where they would be arrested for counterfeit passports. In the sixteenth and last chapters, they finally regained their identities and their records expunged, to live a free life in Malaysia.

Overall, an excellent graphic novel which shows just how stressful and dangerous it is be a refugee. The story by Neyestani is searing and affecting. The art by Neyestani is gorgeous. Altogether, an important story that shows the impact of empathy.

Story: Mana Neyestani Art: Mana Neyestani
Story: 10 Art: 9.7 Overall: 9.89 Recommendation: Buy

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