Aya: The Secrets Come Out cover image
In their graphic novel, Aya, writer Marguerite Abouet and artist Clément Oubrerie transported readers back to the African country of the Ivory Coast. Set in the late 1970s, Aya introduced a cast of characters that lived in and around Yopougon, also known as Yop City, a working class neighborhood in the city of Abijan. The star of this colorful ensemble was Aya, a studious, middle class girl whose levelheaded ways were in stark contrast to her contemporaries.
In the second graphic novel, Aya of Yop City, Aya is the calm eye of a storm of personal calamities. Her friend, Adjoua, struggles with being a single mother, and her other girl friend, Bintou, ignores her friends to chase a mysterious Parisian lothario. The biggest bombshell of all is that Aya’s father, Ignace, has two children by another woman, and his mistress, Jeanne, arrived at the family’s doorstep with the two children in tow.
In the third (and final?) graphic novel, Aya: The Secrets Come Out, clandestine desires, conspiracies, secrets, and lies are brought to light. This time, Aya manages to be counsel to almost all and problem solver for many.
Aya is one of the great graphic novels of the first decade of this century (2001-2010). Aya of Yop City was a good, not great work, but as I said in my review, “it is great that something like it is available to comic book and graphic novel readers in North America.” Aya: The Secrets Come Out delivers a wonderful comic, character drama that completely justifies the subplots and set-ups offered in Yop City.
Like Gilbert Hernandez and Jaime Hernandez were over a quarter-century ago, Marguerite Abouet is a greatly needed fresh voice in comic books, spinning tales about people who are different from the cookie cutter characters and culture offered by North American comic books – from superhero comics to yes, alternative comics. Her keen insight into human motivation with its changeability and fickle nature allows her to create characters that are uncanny in their resemblance to real people.
Artist Clément Oubrerie uses vibrant colors to bring his quirky cartoons to life. He gives his characters faces that capture a wide range of human emotion, feeling, and expression. His backdrops and sets are what really capture the sense that these stories take place in a different world.
Together, Abouet and Oubrerie have created something that is not only delightfully refreshing, but is also magical in its ability to make an African-set story universal. The only bad thing about Aya: The Secrets Come Out is that this excellent conclusion is the end. Encore!