‘The Owl Tribe: Book 1’ - Graphic Novel Review

Christopher Columbus was a despotic, homicidal a**hole. 

The man who “discovered America” didn’t, his fake set of distance logs he kept to keep his crew in line was more accurate than his “real” logs, and he forever branded a continent full of a diverse peoples with the name “Indians,” because he was too stupid to realize that he wasn’t where he thought he was, even with staggering evidence to the contrary.  He never even set foot on the continent itself, which was named the Americas after Amerigo Vespucci who figured out where the idiot wound up, rather than Columbia after the bloodthirsty dips**t.  The only thing that makes the whole of his awful stain of a life slightly more bearable is that he died penniless in a dungeon.  That part makes me smile. 

Here’s the thing, most of us have used the term “Indian” for the indigenous people who the White Europeans killed and raped while stealing their lands, when that term ought really only be applied to people from India.  I also have issues with the term “Native Americans,” because that’s branding a multitude of varied and unique societies under the name of an Italian mapmaker.  The peoples who lived here have their own names: the Shawnee, the Choctaw, the Blackfoot, the Sioux, the Pueblo, the Lenni Lenape, the Seminole, the Crow, the Mohawk, the tribes of the Iroquois Nation, and a host of others that we really ought to learn when dealing with members of those tribes.  We should not put on headdresses, we should not “tomahawk chop,” and we should certainly not use a racial slur as the name of a pro NFL team, though ain’t it fitting that it’s the team of our nation’s capital?  Due to the vagaries of stadium-naming rights, the Cleveland Indians (whose mascot is an abomination) play at Progressive Field.  FFS!  All of this is terrible, and people really need to do better.  If you still sit “Indian Style,” then maybe you ought to do research into the rich and tragic history of the people that you think you’re talking about. 

Here’s a great step: Try checking out stories that treat the peoples here with the respect that they never should have lost, like Lukasz Wnuczek’s Owl Tribe.  This book is the obvious product of someone who not only has done their research, but knows how to separate the BS from the historical record and pay homage to the myths and worldview of the peoples about whom he writes.  This is not only an incredible story worth reading, but it’s told in a responsible and non-appropriating way.  Wnuczek allows the truth of his characters to shine out, filling these pages with a rich tapestry of imagination and execution that is humbling to witness.

The power of the graphic media is that we can easily shed our disbelief. The circumstances in a good work are layered so artfully that you're able to dive fully into a world that stretches the imagination.  Wnuczek fully immerses himself in both tribal and Norse lore, weaving the two seamlessly around a story that is still fully human.  After all, myths from any culture were how people explained the world around them, giving spirits to the otherwise soulless disasters and boons that awaited any life.  This world is solidly engrossing, so much so that the 60 pages seem to flit by in an instant.  The plot is intricately developed, and the limited omniscience used as a storytelling point of view grants a wonder both pleasant and terrifying as the story progresses.  The characters are believable and engaging, with everyone having a driving purpose.

The artwork gives much to establishing the heavy immersion into the world.  The locales are haunting in the beauty, and he's able to establish a mystery to the world without overtly hiding anything.  It's a deft and delicate balance that he utilizes, blending the perspective beautifully to trick the eye into believing that if you just look a little harder, you might be able to pick out some obscure detail, much like when you keep watching a gif to see if it resolves this time.  Or this time.  Okay...and now it's been three hours.  What was I saying?  Yes, the artwork is good, really good.  The weaving of the story with this level or artistic talent is something not to be missed.

I obviously hold the issue of the indigenous tribes very close to my heart, based on my fiery opening.  This work is like a breath of cool fresh air when all the winds seem to blow ill.  There's a wonderful and incredibly complex world that is a joy to explore, and I hope that more splendid talents like Lukasz Wnuczek make use of it, and that readers like you can appreciate just how incredible it is.  The final page will hold you breathless and break your heart, and it's a journey that I truly hope you undertake.

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