A Girl in the Himalayas
David Jesus Vignolli (Writer and Artist)
It’s hard to know what Archaia, BOOM! Studio’s fantasy imprint, is doing these days when it’s overshadowed by its Goliath parent publisher, busy churning out variant-happy Power Rangers and WWE comics. However, the fantasy comic imprint hasn’t gone anywhere, and A Girl in the Himalayas is the proof in the proverbial pudding that we could all use a lovin’ spoonful of fantasy about now.
Artist, writer, and letterer David Jesus Vignolli does not waste any time when you crack open his graphic novella. Our lovable protagonist, Vijaya, is awakened by a house fire. She’s shouting for her parents that are nowhere to be found. Himalayans have set her whole life aflame and take her parents’ lives, but she barely escapes to a magical sanctuary. Vijaya wanders until she stumbles into a freezing blizzard, where she is rescued by the immortal warriors Vasu and Prasad, who protect the spirits that inhabit the limbo she’s about to enter. The two unlikely heroes instantly become fathers to this exotic creature (a human) that will inevitably bring destruction. Prasad gives up his right as a protector of the hereafter, and immortality, to save Vijaya. His sacrifice doesn’t come without a price—the selfless act leaves the realm vulnerable and Vasu to bear the responsibility of keeping the land safe. Prasad becomes weak and asks Vasu to help raise the child until he’s well enough to take over.
Vasu and Prasad are like the Ying and the Yang. In this world, Vasu is our Batman, though he more closely resembles Aku from Samurai Jack. Vasu never wanted a Robin but inherits this wide-eyed child. Vasu has to help the orphan before she’s forced to return to her realm and leave the spirit world. But Prasad is the kind of guy that, even though he isn’t your dad, he’ll go the extra mile any parent would. He’s full of nothing but unconditional love and wisdom. Vasu warns Prasad that he can’t do it alone and it’s only a matter of time until the Himalayans reach their realm and wreak havoc. Prasad assures Vasu that he will be ready to cross that bridge when the time comes, so Vasu accepts his dying friend’s request.
It takes a village to raise a child. Vijaya becomes a pupil and learns from various spirits about the world around her and how humanity can be destructive. This is when Vijaya realizes she has to show the acts of a few don’t define her and her kind. Vijaya is a daughter of many adopted fathers and mothers, and as a product of that parenting style, it’s nice to see that kindly represented.
Vignolli executes each page with a musical dialogue style, loud sound effects, and tight storytelling to invest your interest. You forget the fact that the whole book has a three color pallet because of how sharp each panel is drawn. The plot plays second fiddle to the strongly characterized ensemble. Vijaya is all of us before the harsh realities of adulting. A Girl in The Himalayas is tangible proof that there’s still immeasurable kindness left on this problematic earth and in life, and there’s always time to do better.