Generations-Biondi-Featured Reviews 


By | June 26th, 2018
Posted in Reviews | % Comments

Italian cartoonist, Flavia Biondi, gets her first work translated into English with “Generations.” A quiet, introspective graphic novel, the story follows Matteo, a young gay man, as he flees from his problems in the city to try to figure things out in the provincial town where he grew up. Biondi wants to connect generations, wants to show how family influences and informs any individual person, and wants readers to revel in retrospection. For the most, she succeeds.

Cover by Flavia Biondi

Written and Illustrated by Flavia Biondi
Translated by Carla Roncalli Di Montorio
Lettered by Officine Bolzoni and Casmio Torsoli

After three years in Milan, Matteo returns home to the provincial country town where he was born and from which he had fled. Coming out as a young gay man in a provincial country town had led to ugly clashes with his conservative father, and the urban metropolis of Milan had been a welcome change from the stifling small town life of his childhood and the anger and bewilderment of some members of his family. But now, Matteo finds himself with little choice but to return home, with no money, no job, and an uncertain future, like so many other young people of his millennial generation. Afraid of encountering his estranged father, he instead takes refuge with his extended family, at a house shared by his grandmother, three aunts, and his very pregnant cousin. As he tries to rebuild his life, reconnecting with the women of his family and old hometown friends, he warily confronts a few truths about the other generations of his family-from their bigotry to their love, and tolerance, and acceptance-and a few truths about himself, including his fears of confrontation and commitment.

In an early scene of “Generations,” twenty-something Matteo sits on the roof with his pregnant cousin at night. He has just learned a piece of hidden family history and he stares out at the skyline of his provincial town while trying to process it. Ahead of him, a church rises up while stars splatter across the moon. Biondi draws Matteo from the back, everything about him drooping. He is supposed to be figuring out what to do next but he’s stuck in a rut, adding a new set of problems to those already running through his family. Three years ago, he ran away to Milan with an older man he met over the internet. Things didn’t work out and with nowhere else to go, he’s decided to go back home.

“Since my return, I’d had the constant feeling of being a tourist in my old life,” he says.

“Generations” explores how Matteo stops seeing his family as a bunch of crazy aunts or distant fathers or elderly grandmothers, but more as people. People with their own ambitions, fears, failures, and successes. And he learns how to take all that and start trying to make his own life work better through it.

Flavia Biondi goes right for the heartstrings with this book. It’s emotional, empathetic, affirming, and maybe even a bit empowering. Much like the story, her art is quiet and unobtrusive. She delivers “Generations” with thin, scratchy European lines and constantly pushes us right into a close-up of the face, bent and twisted with emotion. Biondi also favors more rectilinear panels which allows the environment to hang out on the edges of the frame. Most of the book features people talking to each other but during Matteo’s digressions, she allows the perspective to shift to the landscape of the nearby area around town. The book isn’t in color but Biondi nevertheless gray-tones it to give a sense of depth.

It’s in these character-building moments where Biondi shows the best control over the medium. Near the midpoint of the story, for instance, Matteo’s watching the finale of some reality show with his aunts. They’re also talking about some serious stuff. Biondi keeps it close on everyone, tight and confining. Several panels pass by where characters don’t say anything, only stare out in the distance, unsure of what they’re going to do next. Compare this with another scene where the family’s yelling at each other and banging on doors. Biondi breaks the page up here like it’s a shonen manga. She draws a lot of energy from the sequence.

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However, Biondi also has trouble moving in and out of scenes in “Generations.” Especially near the end, a lot of the book is choppy and quick, it doesn’t take the same time to breathe as it did in earlier scenes. She covers about a month’s worth of activity in, like, five pages, all while trying to generate that same emotional connection she had earlier. There’s a lot the book bites off in its concluding acts that Biondi so desperately wants to include she ends up shortchanging most of them.

There’s also strange statements she makes. “It’s my generation that forgets the necessary space of silences,” Matteo thinks, staring at his family. There’s self-realization, sure, but there’s also ridiculous grandstanding statements inconsistent with the character or perspective while also alienating in the story. Like Biondi popped in just to give her hot take on the age gap.

However, “Generations” does have ideas it wants to explore. Many of the sequences here are not unfamiliar (the lonely depressed young man; the dying grandma; that one crazy aunt who wants to make life more difficult for everyone) but Biondi controls them with an empathetic hand and confident approach to the page. By helping guide Matteo through to his truths, the book might also help to take us to ours.

Matthew Garcia

Matt hails from Colorado. He can be found on Twitter as @MattSG.