Graphic Novel Spotlight – 5,000 Kilometers Per Second


Winner of the Angoulême Prize for best graphic album of 2010, the long awaited English translation of Italian comic creator Manuele Fior’s moving love story makes its debut this month.

5,000 Kilometers Per Second is the story of two lovestruck teenagers, Piero and Lucy. When Piero falls in love with Lucy, their lives are forever changed. At first reluctant to leave his hometown after finishing school, Piero studies archeology and Lucy convinces him to leave the country while she herself spends time studying in Norway. But this will be the last time they see each other for a long time as the distance between them grows both figuratively and literally leaving the main focus of the comic examining their time apart in Italy, Norway and Egypt.

Possibly influenced by the themes of Makoto Shinkai’s similarly titled animated masterpiece (and manga adaptation from Vertical) 5 Centimeters Per Second, Fior presents a great traditional love story that doesn’t pull its punches when it comes to emotionally satisfying its readers. The main characters Piero and Lucy have very little face to face interaction with the majority of the story focusing on their time far away from each other where their only means of talking to each other is by phone. Through Fior’s storytelling, this means of communication is exposed as almost shallow as it is unable to overcome the great distance separating the two callers. It creates a vibe with each of the main characters where both find problems with their surroundings (they both feel stifled by their hometowns but the locations they both end up in end up increasing their feelings of isolation and separation) to the point where both characters end up in the same place again, you know things cannot be the same as they used to be.

Beyond the clever focus on the distance between the couple’s relationship, the comic is a great showcase of Fior’s art featuring fantastic usage of water colours which are excellent at setting the mood for each setting and giving an ambience to sequences far better than any words could. Whether it be the bright yellow used in the scenes in Italy when the relationship first starts to the gloomy greys and blues used in the rainy present, Fior’s technique goes a long way in creating a mood and adding to the themes of the comic.

Fans of European comics or 5 Centimeters Per Second, or anyone looking for a new take on the love story genre or some great sequential watercolour comic art, there is plenty in 5,000 Kilometers Per Second to enjoy all-round.

5,000 Kilometers Per Second is published 21 April by Fantagraphics

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