20/20, A GRAPHIC MEMOIR
Creator: Annie Huang
Publisher: Blueprint Comics
WHAT IS IT?
A short memoir covering one week in January, 2020, when the Australian bushfires rage and COVID-19 is quickly becoming a threat on the horizon.
Combine the introspective surreality of Persepolis with the pandemic anxiety of Bo Burnham's Inside.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
In 20/20 Annie Huang recounts the last week of January 2020 in Australia. The bush fires rage on in the background as Huang begins taking medication for their mental health, and their mother goes on a big trip to Antarctica. As Huang adjusts to the new meds, they continue to go about their daily life, feeling the difference it makes.
However, while their mother is traveling, she texts Huang to warn them about the oncoming pandemic, which releases a flood of traumatic memories from their childhood. As these memories try to pull them back, Huang must fight to stay present.
By only covering one week of January 2020, Huang allows for the space to really dig into all the complicated feelings they processes as the harsh bushfire season begins to bleed into the oncoming pandemic.
Huang’s art expresses their emotional turmoil through beautiful and heartbreaking moments of surreality.
The grayscale coloring of 20/20 simply and effectively applies a haziness that represents both the constant smoke from the bushfires and the psychological haziness that Huang is feeling.
Huang’s letters are written in an easy-to-read, hand-written font, and creatively integrated into many pages as a part of the art as opposed to traditional speech bubbles or caption boxes.
Flashbacks to Huang's childhood in China flow in and out of the narrative, eventually blending into the present. Traumatic flashbacks are often represented as jarring, but these flashbacks take their time to fade in and out and to leak into the present, demanding to take up space.
The representation of the process of taking medication for your mental health is on-point. Taking medication for mental health carries a hefty stigma, but Huang's brief but deliberate inclusion of their medication represents it as a tool that helps them to function. It doesn't automatically fix all their problems, it doesn't turn them into a different person or a zombie, it just helps them see a little more clearly.
20/20 is short enough to be read in one sitting but packs enough of a punch to stay with you long after you’ve finished reading.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
CONTENT WARNING: This comic deals heavily with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The memories are from their childhood, so it makes sense that they’d be hazy and lack a bit of detail, but it would have been interesting to get another page or two on Huang’s time living in China.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
20/20 is relatively short–just under 70 pages–but the way that Huang plays with the passage of time makes it go by in a crawl reminiscent of the overwhelming haze that many of us experienced (or are still experiencing) during the pandemic. This pace emphasizes the disruptive feeling of getting pulled from 2020 back to the traumas of 2003.
This short graphic memoir is a piece of art that feels deeply personal, like peeking directly into someone’s catharsis. In documenting their mental health journey through a single week of 2020, Huang expertly translates their thoughts and emotions into words and pictures you can feel.
20/20 offers no solutions, no tidy endings. It’s an earnest and deeply personal reflection of its creator.
WHAT SHOULD I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Meet Me In The Pit edited by Chris Neill (#4 includes a story from Annie Huang)
Tales from the Pandemic edited by Mario Candelaria
My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Nagata Kabi
If you like the art:
The Fire Never Goes Out by Noelle Stevenson
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Constantly by GG
ABOUT THE CREATOR:
Annie Huang (@annieandthemisc)
Their greyhound, Macy, has her own Instagram (@macyland2540)
In their free time, they also make zines, knit, hike, and cook.
HOW DO I BUY IT?
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