I finished this terrific graphic novel and said out loud, “They should turn this into a movie!” Honestly, it’s the kind of story that I love to see on film: beautiful, visual, meaningful. Bonus for having an editor who can pace it better than my reading speed does, and a director who knows how to set it to music. A movie of this book could be extraordinary.
Not A New York Love Story is both an homage to New York City and a bittersweet examination of the end of a romance. The unnamed protagonist is grieving the death of his partner following a horrific accident. He’s trying to go about his daily life, and even goes to therapy to cope, but when she actually manifests in their kitchen one evening, he’s completely thrown. She’s dead, he knows she’s dead, but she feels very much alive as they have dinner and talk. He wakes in the morning alone, and bereft.
His therapist suggests taking time off work and seeing friends instead, but as the days go by, the appearances of his late partner increase in frequency and intensity. He tries to ignore her, tries to reason her appearances away, but when he finally gives in one day, finds himself going with her on a tour of parts of the city they’d never had time to visit together while she was still alive. Is she a ghost, or just a manifestation of his longing made tangible by the power of his grief? And what will happen when the strength of his memories of her inevitably begin to fade?
The ending of this book is a gut punch, a smart, emotional and deeply logical explanation for everything that’s been going on. Julian Voloj has written something truly special here. Andreas Gefe’s art is exquisite, the perfect complement to the story. The style is dreamy overall, veering from a sort of watercolor and ink technique to a stronger pastel influence as the story progresses. Regardless of the technique used (and there are a multiplicity of them!) the art is by turns arresting and engaging, in a soft vaporwave palette that perfectly suits the goings on.
I loved, too, how the main characters are a Black man and an Asian woman, as well as the depiction of the protagonist’s best friend. It’s nice to see people of color take center stage in a book that isn’t about their ethnicities — and don’t get me wrong, I love books about that, too! It’s just nice every once in a while to see a story about people who look like me that isn’t self-consciously about how they look like me. New York City is also a great setting for that: people just want to live and go about their daily business without always having to represent everyone they look like. It doesn’t mean we’re not proud to be who we are, just that we don’t want to have to think about it all the time, and maybe want to center a universal love story or grief story or ghost story without having to (re-)explain our ethnicities.
The book is relatively short, but punches way above its weight class. I really, sincerely hope it gets made into a movie that gets even more people to read this amazing graphic novel.
Not A New York Love Story by Julian Voloj & Andreas Gefe was published September 5 2023 by FairSquare Comics and is available from all good booksellers, including