Article originally written by Steve Ponzo
R. Kikuo Johnson’s debut graphic novel, Night Fisher, is a compelling yet unsentimental coming of age story. It’s a portrait of awkward adolescence on the cusp of adulthood illustrated with the darker, more realistic tones of teenage life. Night Fisher is filled with bold artwork, psychological intricacies, and mature depictions of immature actions.
Like every other jaded teen, Loren Foster feels he doesn’t fit in. As a senior attending a prestigious prep school on Maui, Loren finds himself drifting from his only friend, Shane, as their lives head in different directions. With graduation around the corner, Loren is faced with the big choices of where do I go from here and what happens next? In the face of decisions, Loren opts to ignore the questions. Instead, he is determined to rekindle his friendship with Shane, which leads Loren down a path of destruction. Shane has fallen in with a bad crowd, but in an effort to fit in with his contemporaries, Loren finds himself following along with their troubling lifestyle. He soon finds himself on a downward spiral of seedy characters, thievery and crystal meth.
Johnson uses many cleaver techniques to add depth to his simplistic coming of age tale. Choosing to set his story on Maui, an exotic island in the middle of the ocean, Johnson reinforces the themes of isolation felt within Loren’s life. Images of the island’s history and landscape fill the book in the form of beautifully rendered topographical maps and detailed flora studies. By highlighting the beautiful Hawaiian setting, Johnson is able to show us that even in paradise people can drift down darker paths.
Night Fisher is filled with a strong sense of graphic balances in black and white. Naturalistic body language is created with a few quick brush strokes. Johnson informs us of the sweeping range of emotions being felt by the characters with just a few fluid lines.
Johnson’s heavy usage of blacks creates moods that are palpable. The darkness created in certain scenes is a brilliant use of symbolism, showing that the dark and threatening nature of the unknown future that waits for Loren.
R. Kikuo Johnson has proven himself as a masterful storyteller in his first graphic novel. Night Fisher is a tale of resistance toward growing up. Apathy and fear come head to head with the acceptance and appreciation for what comes next in life.