June 17, 2019

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Discovering the Aquicorn Cove with Katie O'Neill


Aquicorn Cove
by Katie O'Neill
published by Oni Press

Some may say it is a good time to be alive. Others might beg to differ as their indifference to compromise is overshadowed by a perspective all their own. A constant us versus them narrative seems to be heavy handed and steering the boat. As I attempt to mend the social divide, allow me to briefly explore a recently published graphic novel by Katie O’Neill entitled Aquicorn Cove. It was published in late 2018 and served purpose to remind its readers that collection of friendship should always be more important than a consumption of abundance, especially when that abundance hurts who you are with. Also a reminder and frequent theme in the pages of Aquicorn Cove was a mindfulness to how fragile the human existence is when we carelessly take for granted the many treasures in this world that it has so graciously given us.

It is routinely human nature to (though probably in our subconscious) selfishly ignore opportunities for selfless acts of kindness to counteract the negative stream of biblical stone-throwing. Ironically the case, since we are often best suited the target rather than an eager name-caller casting the first stone. Guilty as charged, I will be first to admit that I fall guilty to this way of life. Call it a pessimistic perspective, but I see it as an opportunity to improve self if it is the bad that you focus instead of inherently showcasing the good. This book was given me a reminder that these little acts matter, and the kindness and empathetic gestures we give (even when inconvenient) go much further than what you may otherwise expect.

Rarely does a comic stir such vivid depictions of personal accountability in a way that Aquicorn Cove does. Katie O’Neill challenges the reader to filter their own selfish desire of normalcy as the message of the story puts focus on the greater importance to give rather than to simply take. It provides new reminders to a perspective authored originally by the phrase your grandmother once told you when she said “do unto others”. 

This story takes place in a small coastal town after a heavy storm had passed leaving behind what a storm typically does; broken windows, destroyed crops, compromised homes, and an overall disrupted way of living. At the beginning of the story a young child, named Luna, and her father come to visit her fish farmer Aunt Mae and while there they help rebuild the town and enjoy it while connecting with the friendly natives. Quickly you learn that Luna’s mother was someone she held very near to her heart but who was also no longer part of her life. Her mother had a deep connection to the oceanm one which unearthed a memory in Luna that began a trail of a journey toward discovering a community that had been lost. The community on land had always been singing the same song, but it was the communion it once had with the ocean that was beginning to suffer causing more than the fish to take notice.

At its core, this is a children’s graphic novel but this is so much more than a childish story. Katie O’Neill utilizes the characters in this book to illustrate a vision that we cannot live without nature and nature cannot survive without us. It is a merging of two narratives that define our existence. Aunt Mae struggles to understand repercussions of her evolving fishing techniques as she often over-indulges nature in order to help her community survive. Luna struggles to realize the importance of this necessity as she over-empathizes with the aquicorn and their cove along with all the other creatures of the sea, just as her mother once did. Through time and some chance encounters with some figures of the past, each opposing perspective learn the importance of a shared inhabitance brought together through the co-dependence of a forgotten friendship. 

More important to the story in Aquicorn Cove is the childlike illustrations that paint every page. Few words tell this story, and with the vividly simple and childishly adorable landscapes and characters it becomes nearly impossible to avoid a simultaneous tear as the book comes to an end when Luna summons the ocean creatures with her own. Pass this book on to those younger than you. Pass this book up to others who may not understand it’s intent. Plant a seed. Read a book. Collect only what you consume. Coexist.