Hurricane Season #1

By Jon Sukarangsan
48 pages, black and white
Published by Fortune Cookie Press

There are times, when reading a comic, when I seriously wonder if I’m reading fiction or non-fiction. That was certainly the case with Jon Sukarangsan’s Hurricane Season. With books like these, the problem isn’t anything done wrong by the creator. Rather, it’s that as you read the comic, the storytelling is so convincing that it feels like something that they’d personally experienced. That said, with a book like Hurricane Season I’m actually a little relieved that it isn’t reality.

While the Gulf Coast is used to the threat of hurricanes, no one is prepared for the damage caused by Hurricane Anne smashing into the city of Houston. Suddenly Billie’s whole life is turned upside down; her house and all her belongings are under water, and her husband is far away on a business trip. Now, kept company by childhood memories and strangers, she’s forced to figure out just what she can even do.

There are parts of Hurricane Season that really jumped out at me as feeling more like recollections than fictional, a real credit to Sukarangsan. Billie’s journey to her destroyed home and a later trip to the hospital both grabbed me in particular, showing a lot of honest emotion and depth to them. Maybe it’s because neither of them seemed to be aiming to be full of larger-than-life elements, but rather quiet character pieces that let Billie react in a normal, introspective manner. I really felt for Sukarangsan’s protagonist here, with all her confusion and grief and terror that she’s feeling. Some other pieces seem a little more deliberately full of drama, though—a convenience store being held up (with Billie just happening to be in the back of the store looking for a soda) smacks of a little too movie-of-the-week, for instance. It’s a strange slight misstep in what otherwise comes across as a generally realistic, believable story about what happens after the disaster is over. Billie herself is a good protagonist for this sort of story, coming across as an average person that might be your friend or next-door neighbor. The supporting cast seems a little too broadly sketched in; the old neighbor comes across as a little too loopy and manic at first to be believed (although later he’s more muted), the stranger at the bar a little too much the “strong shoulder” with little else to offer, and Billie’s unseen husband on the phone a little too much like the kind of character you see in a movie where “too busy with their job” is authorial shorthand for somehow being a villain. Still, it’s early enough in the story (with three more issues to go) that I’m hoping with time they’ll get fleshed out and come across as a little less stereotypical.

Sukarangsan’s art in Hurricane Season is something that I can wholeheartedly get behind. It’s an unpretentious, clean style that reminds me a little bit of Craig Thompson’s art. The way that he draws Billie is really nice, making her pretty without ever coming across as unrealistic or drop-dead-gorgeous. Instead she has a simple beauty about her, a kind of grace and attractiveness that she fairly exudes. That’s not to say that it’s the only part of the art that I liked, of course. One other aspect in particular that stood out to me was how he drew the setting of Hurricane Season. The images of the devastation in particular stood out; as someone who’s worked with disaster scenes in the past, I was impressed with how real it felt to me. From the semi-submerged cars, to the tree that crashed into Billie’s house, there’s both a fine amount of detail and also of artistic style on display here that impressed me.

Hurricane Season #1 is a promising debut to what promises to be about a 200-page project upon completion. I’m interested in reading more about Billie, and to hopefully learn a little bit more about the other characters to boot. Here’s hoping for a second issue before too long; while I don’t think I’ve encountered Sukarangsan’s comics before, I’ll definitely remember his name in the future. Sukarangsan’s story of a drowned life definitely hit the right kind of nerve with me.

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