Kindred was my introduction to Octavia E. Butler, an award-winning African American sci-fi author and was first published in June of 1979. It follows protagonist Dana Franklin, an African American woman who suddenly finds herself thrown back in time to a pre-Civil War plantation. This adaptation deals with the matter of slavery, and Damian Duffy and John Jennings do a great job depicting it to a 2017 reader.
This is a work of frightening beauty. It combines art and history, dealing with the brutal landscape that was the institution of American slavery. Dana, who was in an interracial relationship in the ’70s, finds herself transported back in time via a link to a harsh and cruel young white boy: Rufus, who it seems is destined to grow to abuse and covet a slave, an ancestor of Dana’s. This experience throws her daily life into upheaval and eventually includes her partner.
Although the subject matter is grim, the beauty of Butler’s words allow you to live through the eyes of the characters in the panels – in modern times dealing with the censure that comes from Dana’s relationship, to what is expected of her as not only as a woman, but a black woman in society.
And although her spouse initially doubts her fantastical journey, he comes to realize the truth of her words. We swim through a myriad of characters both in the past and present, colorful in their actions and language and heartbreaking when we see the ways a person can be broken given enough time.
The connection between Dana and her ancestor flies between moments of extreme depravities, whippings and death; and for Dana, she realizes she herself cannot teach humanity. She also forms relationships with the slaves on the plantation and we see what their daily living conditions encompass, and how relationships are formed, only to be broken at any time.
I love how the artist shapes each panel around its character and whatever event is occurring. Through Dana and those around her we see the ties of her hope mingled with the reality of pain. But she continues to fight through it all and although the art might be jarring, I could not put this book away.
This is a mature subject matter, and might not be suitable for everyone. But I would ask that you give it a chance as it is a story that deserves to be read.
Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation
Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation | Writer: Octavia E. Butler | Adaptor: Damian Duffy Artist: John Jennings | Publisher: Abrams ComicArts