Hurricane Katrina, its devastation of New Orleans and the ensuing bureaucratic fallout constitute a difficult series of topics that is still struggled with by many. Since 2005 Dave Egger’s novel Zeitoun and David Simon and Eric Overmeyer’s HBO series Treme have contributed greatly to a growing discussion that centres on the impact the catastrophic event had on New Orleans and the very fabric of American society.
With A.D.: New Orleans after the Deluge, Josh Neufeld continues this discourse, detailing the time before, during and after the hurricane through the eyes of seven Katrina survivors.
Telling these increasingly familiar stories in the medium of a graphic novel is a good choice. Unfortunately, Neufeld, a talented illustrator and mediocre writer, fails to lend his visually stunning work the narrative it deserves. A.D.’s dialogue is drawn from interviews, blogs and other first-hand accounts given by the people behind his book’s characters and a certain documentary feel is apparent throughout. While this approach is indeed integral to maintaining the comic’s validity and raw, direct aesthetic, Neufeld fails to mold the provided excerpts into compelling (or, at times, appropriate) speech.
A telling moment is when the character of Denise struggles for her life as the storm ravages her apartment. Neufeld captures her terror across two or three full page panels but, disappointingly, yanks the reader from the scene by closing the chapter with a hastily drawn close-up of Denise, holding on for dear life and, inexplicably screaming, “I’m gonna die in this bitch! Damn!” Moments like these do a disservice to an otherwise interesting story, diluting the pathos and severing the reader’s connection with the story.
A.D.: New Orleans after the Deluge is often effective and well executed but Neufeld makes his book a difficult one to recommend when it is so full of clumsy moments where the writing and visuals fail to capture an intended emotion or idea appropriately. The book, while interesting, is, ultimately, dwarfed by similar artistic depictions that outdo Josh Neufeld’s record.