Required Reading is DoomRocket’s love chest, opened twice monthly for a book we just can’t seem to get enough of. This week Arpad recommends ‘Generations’, available now from Flavia Biondi and Lion Forge Comics.
By Arpad Okay. Ostracized from his hometown, Matteo Vanni fled to Milan three years ago to live with his boyfriend. Now he’s broke. Single. Back in his village, though not living with his father, Matteo has moved in with his Nan, his three aunts, and his cousin. Matteo doesn’t have a place in the world outside of grandma’s couch. This is his life now. This is what he tells himself.
Generations is the story of Matteo’s enlightenment. Becoming the caretaker for his grandmother to secure his spot as the seventh member of the household (his cousin is super pregnant), that’s a crash course on reality for sure. With the excesses of city living and the ghosts of his past slowly clearing away, Matteo can finally see. The stories we tell ourselves become our reality. They can be a trap. They can set you free. It really depends on the story.
When it comes to his family, running away is hardly Matteo’s problem alone. Each woman in the Vanni household has some point in their past where things became fractured. Each member of the family decided on their roles and to play them indefinitely long ago, settling for what they think their lives must be instead of truly living them. “This is how it is and this is how it must be,” is a flaw each member of the family bears. Bound by blood and united by circumstance, Matteo’s return serves as the Vannis’ breaking point, a chance for him to change, for everyone to change.
The tension in Generations comes from this. Stubborn adherence to the past pitted against the unstoppable flow of time. How it was — how they perceive how it was — versus how it is. Slow country life and the unflinching responsibility of caring for someone at the end of their days opens Matteo to embrace change. Shake off the prejudice. Realize that when you ask a question, you aren’t guaranteed the answer you expect.
It’s a rare thing to read, a coming of age tale told after you’ve grown up. The hackneyed is totally absent. Generations isn’t about becoming a man, or a midlife crisis. It’s not so cataclysmic or clichéd. It’s time’s wheel turning, rising to meet life’s deeper challenges. It’s beautiful. Touching. Poetic. I fell fast for the realism of Matteo and his family and I found myself deeply invested in their fates by the back end of the book. A good read and cry. It cuts to the heart.
And it does so with sophistication. The story Generations tells so evocatively works because it’s complicated. The present isn’t a justification of the past. The hard times didn’t occur just to enable change for Matteo, they happened because life. But change he has. Generations isn’t a chain of events; it’s a timeless struggle, one that everyone endures. Finding purpose versus feeling stagnant. Matteo becomes a man, a good man, and it’s a process without beginning or end.
The story here, as I said, is of enlightenment. The plot, the change in Matteo, reveals itself slowly, unfurls as a blossom in the sun. With it, the art. Depression kept Matteo in the house. Passion brought him to the countryside. Flavia Biondi has a evocative and quiet style, crafting a love letter to Italy. The architecture, agriculture, cuisine, and people. With thin lines, a dynamic but subdued use of shadows, a ton of expertly employed halftone greys, the art is simpatico with the story. Bohemian and pastoral. Mediterranean, rural, and modern. The family looks like a family and the world they inhabit feels real. Sun dappled and starlit. As the action rises, the juxtaposition increases, life’s chaos and nature’s tranquility intersperse as a mature Matteo faces higher hurdles. In a way, it is a reminder that natural peace is fleeting, that chaos can reign inside while the outside is mundane. Generations successfully ekes out the fullness of life from both.
Lion Forge Comics/$14.99
Written by Flavia Biondi.
Art by Flavia Biondi.
Translated by Carla Roncalli Di Montorio.
US Edition edited by Mark Smylie.