Keezy Young (Writer and Artist), AW’s Tom Napolitano (Letterer)
Lion Forge Comics
September 13, 2017
Taproot is an astoundingly beautiful book, I just have to start by saying that. It may sound hyperbolic but it’s the truth. With Taproot, Keezy Young has created something sweet, sombre, and special that bleeds beauty from the moment you see the opening double-page spread. If you’re lucky, you may have caught Taproot in its original incarnation as a webcomic, but this gorgeous graphic novel printing is completely redrawn and 40 pages longer so fans of the original still have something new to discover.
Seeped in a palette of pastel blues and greens with splashes of peach, Taproot’s first act introduces us to Hamal. He’s a talented gardener who offers advice to his customers at Takeshi’s Flowers whilst balancing his other special set of skills–because Hamal, well, Hamal can see ghosts. Young’s art is so emotive that the book is immediately moving, not least because Hamal’s spiritual companions are all relatively young. We meet Hamal’s best friend Blue, a lonely ghostly teen who goes by April, and a young girl named Joey who Blue and Hamal take in on the first day that they meet.
The chill pastel beauty of Taproot is disrupted after the short introductory act by a black and white forest that Blue becomes lost in. The change in colour and paneling–jagged diagonal lines instead of the real world’s light horizontal ones–is striking and you immediately know that wherever Blue is, it doesn’t bode well for our ghostly gang.
More than anything Taproot is a love story, a moving and heartfelt love story about two people who are stuck in different worlds but are hopelessly in love anyway. Hamal and Blue’s story is timeless, and Keezy Young has created a world that makes this story unique in a multitude of ways. Taproot doesn’t look like any other books, it’s lush landscapes full of flowers, succulents, and life are immersive, crafting a world that feels entirely whole.
Reading Taproot feels something akin to self-care. It’s so calm, serene, and sweet that even in its most creepy and sombre moments, it’s still a book you want to live in. Blue and Hamal’s love story is one you can believe in, and this is a romance comic that feels fresh and vital. Young surprises with every twist and turn that the book makes, without anything feeling forced or contrived. It’s the sort of book that makes your breath catch in your throat. Keezy Young is a natural born storyteller.
The world of Taproot is ripe for exploration and discovery. Once the story is in full swing, there’s nothing stopping Young’s flair for storytelling. Without revealing too much, there are many wondrous character beats and like a film by the great Hayao Miyazaki, one of Young’s greatest talents is giving her characters the space to breathe. These silent, peaceful moments are something to take pleasure in, never halting the pace, just allowing the reader to feel the gravity or sweetness of a moment or even just the intricate details of a page. There’s power in the space that these decisions make, and they give the book a relaxed, almost sedentary pace which fits the tone and themes of the story so well that it’s uncanny.
There’s a softness in the visual world of Taproot that’s unlike any other comic I’ve read recently. This permeates everything from the brush strokes Young uses to the designs of her characters to the outline-less word balloons filled with Tom Napolitano’s tonally perfect lettering. Taproot is a truly soft book, and I mean that in the best possible way. In a world filled with gritty this and grim that, Taproot approaches death with an honesty, respect, and resilience that you rarely see. There’s never anything unbelievable or outlandish about the spiritual world that Hamal and Blue reside in because Young renders it so completely, so flawlessly that you never for a second question it.
Taproot is a book I wish that I’d had as a teen when I began to lose close friends. It’s a hopeful, kind, and sweet book that also happens to be incredibly well structured, paced, and drawn. It’s easily my favorite book of the year and left me desperately wanting more.