Review: Yasmeen #2
Saif Ahmed’s and Fabiana Mascolo’s Yasmeen is in many respects a story about the painful process behind coming of age. Focusing on a girl (the titular Yasmeen) living during the ISIS invasion of Mosul, Iraq first and then years later as a refugee in America, the comic is nothing short of a visceral exploration of how unfair and even profoundly violent change can be.
This is made clear in the first issue of the six-part series. The second entry of the story dives deeper into these ideas, but it takes the opportunity to say something different about coming-of-age stories: they’re not universal.
A staple of YA literature, the coming-of-age story deals in transformation, maturity, and acceptance, all brought upon by a particular set of internal and external challenges. It’s such a flexible narrative template that it’s easy to apply to different types of characters going through a variety of self-identity trials. The emphasis is on seeing how characters grow up and how they accept themselves for who they are, imperfections and all.
Yasmeen’s take on this puts the focus on context and the uniqueness of its circumstances. Growing up during an invasion only to migrate to another country and face the stereotypes and misconceptions of one’s own culture from other groups of people is quite simply on a level all of its own. It’s unique and hard to relate to if the reader does not share in the same experience, or has at very least experienced something similar to it. And yet, what makes this story special is that it wants to help readers understand it, regardless of difficulty.
Yasmeen #2 is where the series hits its stride with its simultaneous approach to storytelling. Yasmeen looks to settle into a normal in her new American life in the present timeline while trying to survive in her new role as wife to a man that acquired her after being separated from the family in the past timeline. The exchange between both timelines is relentless, but it is serves a purpose. In Yasmeen coming of age is a constant, never a phase one can conquer and then move on. It leaves scars.
For Yasmeen, the memories of the past compromise her ability to adapt to the present. But the present brings challenges of its own. She is surrounded by kids of her same age going through their own coming-of-age woes, but their experiences are worlds apart and reconciling those differences is proving quite the challenge. The book’s art captures this with uncomfortable clarity and inventiveness.
Fabiana Mascolo again does an excellent job of dealing with traumatic imagery without being explicit. The lead up to violence or images of abuse is tense and uncomfortable but knows precisely when to change gears into other sequences. It’s also worth mentioning that Mascolo’s facial expressions tell stories of their own. They invite close study to get the most out every character.
The script deftly raises the intensity between the two timelines in this issue, making for a harder-hitting issue than the first one. Things move faster and the terrors of the past face stronger competition from the struggles of student life in America. The change in environments are skillfully managed and always manage to keep each time period in conversation with one another. There’s a sequence in which Yasmeen is surrounded by ghostly images of the ISIS takeover while walking down her school’s cafeteria that is something to behold. It’s deeply haunting and it captures the spirit of the book perfectly.
The second issue of Yasmeen braves unsettling and rough terrains, full of terrible things. But as is the case with the first issue, hope still manages to carve out some space for itself. There’s a lot of darkness still, but the promise of light at the end of the tunnel is there. I don’t expect that light to be all-powerful or all-healing, but I’m intrigued as to what it offers to Yasmeen.
Story: Saif Ahmed Art: Fabiana Mascolo
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0
Recommendation: Buy and then read Graphic Policy’s interview with the writer.
Scout Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
Purchase: Scout Comics Store