REVIEW – Yasmeen #1

“Yasmeen” #1 tells a story through two time periods that’s tense and complex, and this first issue builds a compelling and relatable protagonist. 

Creator/Script: Sarif A. Ahmed
Artist:
Fabiana Mascolo
Letterer:
Robin Jones

“Yasmeen” #1 looks at the life of Yasmeen, a young girl who’s reunited with her family in America after being kidnapped by ISIS in Iraq two years ago. Told partially in flashbacks, the book knits Yasmeen’s re-entry into the world with the events that lead up to her family’s flight from their home and her abduction. However, because the book’s style is airy and relatively texture-free, it’s hard to differentiate at times between the past and the present.

Ahmed and Masciolo do good work in “Yasmeen” #1 to set up a main character who draws interest, and give her enough backstory to hook readers. There’s a lot of good here. Ahmed’s dialogue is natural, and there’s enough political backstory to center us in the appropriate time period and to get at some of the nuances of Yasmeen’s parents’ characters, too. Mascolo does an excellent job of differentiating the younger Yasmeen from her older self physically. her hijab is a different color (brighter) and her expressions are more joyful and open. The older Yasmeen is guarded: her eyes don’t widen in the way they did when she was young and her body language is closed down except for the moment she hugs her mother again. The anatomy in this scene is a bit strange – Yasmeen almost looks like she’s football tackling her mother – but the emotion of the reunion excuses and justifies a bit of wonkiness.

What can trip up a reader in this book is how seamless some of the time shifts can be. There’s a definite palette for each – warmer for the present, cooler and slicker for the past – but there’s often not enough of a contrast. There’s also no wash, texture or effects to let us know we’re hopping back and forth. Mascolo’s line tends toward precision, with minimal shading or scratchiness. That style serves well in certain scenes, as in Yasmeen’s adorable blush when she spies the neighborhood boys as the family leaves their new home, and less so in others. There’s also a curious jump in quality on a page turn to a government checkpoint that features a thicker line and darker colors. This style shift appears again on the final page turn but to much greater effect. The final aerial shot is excellent, if a bit abrupt from a story perspective, and the doll-like people suit the mood as much as the distant, omniscient view.

Jones’ lettering is succinct and sharp, with a narrow font and minimal leading. The balloon stroke is a bit thicker than Mascolo’s line – a smart choice to draw our attention subtly and ensure that the balloons don’t blend in with the backgrounds in a bad way. One piece of dialogue whispered by Yasmeen’s mother is smaller to denote the muted tone, but a bit too small to read. Interestingly, the book doesn’t use any sound effects. It’s not immediately noticeable because Mascolo experiments with a thicker line for explosions and action, but as that doesn’t always cohere a few effects would be welcome.

Overall, there’s nothing jarring about the issues in “Yasmeen,” but it could be a little tighter and demonstrate a bit more visual flair. Still, Yasmeen’s story has us turning the pages at the appropriate pace to see what will happen next, and there’s more than enough here to keep us on board for a second issue. 

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