In Short: Set in 1930s Mississippi, Lee Wagstaff’s father is accused of kidnapping a little white girl. Little Lee journeys to hell and beyond to find the monster that snatched her friend.
Thoughts in General: Bayou is one of the most powerful books I’ve read in a long time. This is not a children’s fantasy novel–there are graphic images of lynchings, beatings, and other horrific events that occurred in the deep south in the beginning of the 20th century. It was not an easy read but I am so glad that I began the journey with Lee and the man/creature Bayou that she met along the way. My only regret is that the third volume has not been published. The second volume ends midstory. We don’t find out of Lee was able to find her father from hanging for the crime he didn’t commit. But do not let that be the reason why you don’t pick up these two slim volumes.
The illustrations throughout the book are gorgeous colored sketches that are sometimes a little crude and sometimes greatly detailed. Bayou was originally published as a webcomic by Zuda, but when Zuda was incorporated into DC Comics, they published the first two volumes in print. Throughout reading the book I felt as though my heart was being squeezed. Love certainly does not shy away from the horrors that people faced.
Bayou is an incredibly rich and complex story. Love pulls from the folklore of Tar Baby and Brer Rabbit in addition to other imagery that I’m sure I don’t even know. I was mildly familiar with the Tar Baby stories from a Folklore course I took in grad school, but it would do you well to quickly read through some of the history or have a basic understanding of these stories going into Bayou. Bayou would be a great story to study and discuss with others and I felt like my understanding was very cursory. There is so much going on in these slim volumes and the second volume is much darker and more entrenched in folklore. This didn’t hinder my enjoyment, though. It made me want to learn more.
I encourage you to read this interview with Jeremy Love on Graphic Novel Reporter for more information on the book and it’s origin.
Bottom Line: Read it. And then bug the hell out of DC Comics so that they will push through the publication of Volume 3. I don’t know what’s holding up volume 3 from publication–whether it’s the author or the publisher, but this is exactly why our voices as readers matter. We need diverse books.
What’s the most powerful book or graphic novel that you’ve read?