‘Two Brothers’ Comic Review
created by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá
Two Brothers is a story about family at its most raw. Things rarely end up as we want them to, mistakes are made, and sometimes there is no satisfying resolution or forgiveness. The story is told from the point of view of a young man whose relationship to the eponymous brothers is slowly revealed throughout the course of the graphic novel, and the narrative focuses on the life of a family living in Manaus, Brazil during the first half of the 20th century.
One of the main things that Two Brothers chronicles is just how much identical twins can be different. This is all told through the life stories of Yaqub and Omar. Whether their personalities were naturally antagonistic to each other from birth or it was a product of their slightly varied upbringings is never made quite clear. Regardless of the cause, two simple childhood flashbacks are enough to show us that even at a young age, Omar harbored incredible jealousy for anything Yaqub had, and Yaqub resented him greatly for the actions fueled by Omar’s jealous rage.
The comic itself starts with a short prologue introducing Zana, mother and wife, during her last regret-filled days of life before skipping to the end of World War II, where Yaqub, the eldest of the titular brothers, is returning from Lebanon. He is greeted by his father Halim in Rio de Janeiro, and the two fly back to Manaus together. It is the first time in five years that Yaqub has seen his family, and his encounters upon and shortly after his return largely set the tone for how all of the family’s relationships play out over the course of the rest of the story.
After the brothers’ rough relationship is established in chapter one, chapter two goes back and chronicles how the family came to be. It details how Halim met and wooed Zana, how they came to adopt the little orphaned girl Domingas as their live-in servant, and how the unfortunate death of Zana’s father during his trip overseas served as a catalyst for her wanting children and how she treated Omar his whole life. Once up to speed on the past, we first meet the narrator, and the story continues forward from where it had ended in the first chapter until it inevitably catches up to the prologue and the narrator’s present time.
The art style (and in some respects the story style as well, for that matter) reminds me a lot of the graphic novels Persepolis and Epileptic. Everything is in sharply contrasting black and white giving some scenes a very dark feel that somehow makes them appear old and far away. The characters are drawn in an interesting combination of sharp angles and wide curves, which serve to accentuate the characters’ personalities well.
Two Brothers is not a graphic novel for a reader seeking some nice escapism, and definitely not for anyone looking for a happily ever after. That said, I really enjoyed it. It was a little confusing to grasp who’s who and everything that was going on in the beginning, but as the narrative filled in all the events that led up to where it had started, the story really came together. Overall, Two Brothers is a compelling tale of family, desire, loss, and the human tendency to ignore uncomfortable truths until it is too late.