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A Sort of Homecoming #1

(Alternative Comics; US: Aug 2003)

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A Friend Indeed


Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together.
—Woodrow Wilson


Damon Hurd and artist Pedro Camello took a lot of people by storm with My Uncle Jeff. A true story based in his own personal experiences, Hurd’s debut comic tackled family relations head-on. Universally acclaimed, it even earned a prestigious Eisner nomination for its creators for Best Single Issue. That is quite a feat for two unknowns, the comic industry equivalent of getting an Oscar nomination for a home movie.


After tackling family, Hurd’s latest project, A Sort of Homecoming, moves on to the next logical subject: friends. After all, outside of your family, no one is as close to you as your friends. In fact, many studies show that kids are more influenced by their peers than their parents. No one knows you like your friends. No one is there for you like your friends. And no one can hurt and betray you like your friends.


The story opens when Owen learns that his lifelong friend David has died. Just how isn’t revealed in this first of three issues. Was it suicide? A disease? A car accident? Owen is understandably distraught, but there’s something about his reaction that makes me think that it wasn’t totally unexpected. Owen may have been expecting this for a while. A friend knows when you’re in trouble, even if you don’t see it yourself.


Still, the death of a friend, even if you knew it was coming, is no easy thing to accept. Like many people do when faced with death, Owen emotionally retreats from dealing with the present, trying to find solace in the past. The loss triggers a series of memories spanning his friendship with David. As Owen travels back home for his friend’s funeral, he relives some of the important moments of their youths.


Like the lilting saxophone of Paul Desmond, Owen’s mind floats from memory to memory, each reminiscence triggered by some small event in the present. There’s that first meeting between the two young friends, the moments of awkwardness as two youths break down walls of shyness and begin to bond. That’s one of the great things about making a new friend. A smile from another person can make you feel at home in a strange place.


Friends can also save you when you’re lonely. If you’re like Owen, precocious and a little socially awkward, your friends are sometimes all you’ve got. Even if you think you’re a geek, your friends can see the good person that you are. Of course, someone that close can also hurt you worse than anyone. When a friend stabs you in the back, insults you, rejects you, that’s one of the worst hurts you’ll ever feel.


Hurd’s writing effortlessly moves between years, and Camello’s simple, bold artwork helps bring the reader along with a flowing continuity between past and present. While it isn’t grounded in the same personal reality of My Uncle Jeff, there is clearly real sentiment behind the story.


It isn’t hard to understand and feel the mix of emotions that Owen experiences. The same strengths of My Uncle Jeff, it’s universality, the broadness of the palette of experiences and emotions that it touches, are the same strengths of A Sort of Homecoming. Just about everyone has lost a friend, in one way or another. The worst part is the sudden absence in your life where there used to be someone important. It might make you depressed, it might make you confused. You might be angry that they would be so selfish. How could they just die without even thinking about you, and what you need?


But probably, you’ll feel all of these things, and more. You may not even know what you’re feeling. Like Owen, you’ll probably just sit, trying to sort through your conflicting emotions and your memories, trying to figure out what happened, and hoping that at some point, you’ll get home, and it’ll all make sense. And that there will be a friend there waiting to listen.

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