Eighty Days by A.C. Esguerra
Publisher: Archaia (Imprint of Boom Studios)
Release Date: September 7, 2021
Available Through The Book Depository
Summary: A pilot wants nothing more than to fly. Or so he thought, until he crosses paths with a mysterious thief whose tricks draw him into unchartered territory and new adventure. In a life where the truth changes as quickly as clouds in the sky, the pilot must decide for himself what freedom really means.
Award-winning cartoonist A.C. Esguerra presents an unforgettable love letter to flight, the quest for freedom and the greatest adventure of all – love.
[Received a digital galley via the publisher]
My Rating: ★★★★☆
My Thoughts: Eighty Days presents a haunting, poetic tale of freedom and resistance when a jaded pilot and mysterious thief cross paths amid a brewing revolution! Esguerra’s knack for layered storytelling comes to life through the vivid, detailed grayscale artwork. This is a fascinating, beautiful graphic novel with profound themes and deeply complex character journeys at its core!
Jay Corvidae is a jaded, but skilled pilot working for AVO, an industrial conglomerate of sorts that’s taken over much of the world. Then one day Jay gets an assignment to transport Fix, a no-class thief looking to find work and despite his peppy, talkative nature he’s also carrying secrets of his own. But, allegiances change, truths are revealed and over the span of 300+ pages our trio feat. Jay, his best friend Sable, and thief Fix are given so much personality, history among the threads of story that make each of their journeys impactful. I fell in love with grand epicness of this story and the poignant character arcs that are explored!
The narrative structure of this graphic novel is truly one of a kind, yet also uniquely crafted to perfectly suit this story alone! Told through an epistolary-like style, the narrative expands through diary entries, thoughts, brief notes, reports, messages and communications which although initially can leave lots for the reader to figure out on their own, speaks to the grand atmosphere and scale of the 20th century-inspired world. In addition, I like how through each of the 4 parts of the novel, you follow the main characters and go deep inside their heads, but also continue to get a great understanding of Jay, Fix and Sable!
Esguerra’s succinct writing voice, alongside their masterful artwork which isn’t afraid to present the reader with lots of metaphorical imagery, uses practically all of the panel space in daring ways, in addition to incorporating a variety of artistic techniques to dive deeper into the characters heads, making this single volume story span over the course of 80 days (hence the title), making it read like a historical fable filled with tragedy, but also boundless threads of hope.
Another main part of this story is the Queer romance that propels the two love interests (Jay and Fix), its heartbreaking at times, but at its core very sweet and magnificent! Its got a slowburn kind of development to it, that is so clearly deep without the need for words.
As the story develops you learn more about Jay and Sable’s friendship, how they grew among Avo’s ranks, betrayals that ensue, but also the mistakes and lengths they go to repair the wrongs of the world. The dynamics between this trio is genuine, complicated, but also you sense each of their ambitions the clearer it becomes that AVO’s militarized, industrial power seeks to take control and silence opposition.
The story is quite grand, complex, and can feel a bit dense at times as the worldbuilding and characters truly take center stage, however that is definitely the extraordinary beauty as well. If you enjoy slower-paced, character-driven geopolitical kinds of stories this will be your cup of tea (the depth to the character arcs is superb). At times you see the plot setting up so much for being only a single volume that it takes you in many different directions, yet you can also picture this potentially being a longer series with all the little details being introduced. Why? Because the story is wonderfully immersive and the author trusts the reader to uncover the deeper meaning and once that final page is reached, the world feels rich and lived in.
I think before going into though, readers should be aware that the use of a brief writing voice with short diary entries and the like is intentional, according to Esguerra who mentioned in an LA Times Preview in Feb. of 2021 that this particular writing voice gives “a great deal up to the art to reveal…” among the greater conflict and a beautiful Queer romance.
Without giving too much away, the world and its characters are revealed little by little, but it cultivates into a daring, wonderful story about love, friendship, rebellion amid war, and much much more hidden within each stroke of the artwork, it really blew me away. I genuinely feel like its best to go into this book with minimal background that way it can surprise you just as much as it did for me!
Eighty Days is an engrossing, intricate, haunting and beautiful story. The fragmentary storytelling, fully realized characters and compelling themes make this a marvelous graphic novel!