Yasmeen billed as the epic story of a teenager on the run from ISIS, is out from Scout Comics this week. Written by Saif A. Ahmed and Fabiana Mascolo, the unique indie series sets out with a unique concept and artwork that evokes the feel of autobiographical cartoonists. It's an outlier in both story and presentation among monthly comics, but is Yasmeen #1 a good read?
It isn't only the artwork that gives Yasmeen #1 the tone of autobiographical comics defined by cartoonists like Craig Thompson and Alison Bechdel. The story itself dances back and forth from 2016 to 2014 with unconventional scene changes, allowing the artwork to lead attentive readers along. The dialogue is sparse, and we don't get to know much of the characters outside of their immediate situation. But it works for the issue considering how gripping the situation is. The flashback scenes introduce Yasmeen's family, as they have just signed a deal to purchase their dream home. No time is wasted before ISIS invades the town while Yasmeen is out shopping with her uncle, leaving her separated from the rest of her family. It's a tense sequence of scenes, punctuated by short bursts of Yasmeen's 2020 life, as she reunites with her parents at a not-exactly-dream home in America. The American scenes are stricken with a palpable dullness following the emotional reunion, highlighting how out of place, and listless Yasmeen feels in this new life. Meanwhile, the cuts back to the main scenes in Iraq are chilling, as dreams are obliterated in gunfire.
The artwork is gorgeous and takes the driver's seat for most of Yasmeen #1. This is no slight to Saif A. Ahmed's story at all, because knowing when to pull back and let the imagery tell the story is a narrative skill in and of itself. Fabiana Mascolo's artwork gives visual cues to the reader to understand when we're in the past and when we're in the present, and which faction of characters we're following during the chaotic attack on Yasmeen's town. The color palette is full of cool blues and warm, light tones, creating a peaceful mood that makes the violence feel that much more tragic.
Yasmeen#1 doesn't follow the expected conventions of monthly comics, which I count as a strength for Scout Comics' new title. The series is as unique as exists in the comics market, and the creative time of Ahmed and Mascolo have established themselves as a pair to watch. A story like this will all depend on how it comes together, but this debut issue marks an intriguing and powerful start.
Yasmeen #1 is out this Wednesday.