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Finding Home Volumes 1 & 2

Finding Home volume 1

Hari Conner
The Traveler vol 1 $18.99 / $9.99 (digital)
The Healer vol 2 $25.32

Do you stay safe or do you follow your heart?

There are moments when you encounter something new that excites you. A new flavor makes your mouth water. A scent seduces. It may be a movie, a play, a song, or a novel. The extraordinary feeling evoked by the source lures you and you relent all the while knowing you’ll be left wanting more once the moment has ended. One of the most memorable times this occurred for me was a novel by author Jeanette Winterson. Turning the pages of Sexing the Cherry and Written On the Body convinced me Winterson was plying language in such a way that compelled me to read at every spare moment till the last sentence.

That’s a bit heady, isn’t it?

Okay. You know the feeling when you start binge watching a show and 12 hours later you’re coming up on the last episode because you couldn’t help yourself?

This is the feeling that reading Hari Conner’s Finding Home evoked for me. Finding Home is the story of two strangers whose different journeys intersect and they decide to travel together for their mutual benefit. Janek searches for his sister who left home a year ago while Chepi researches plant life in association with a professor. It could make for an interesting enough premise on its own but Finding Home is substantially more. Hari Conner describes their work as a slow burn romance and that it is. To be effective a slow burn romance must be engaging with its dialog and characters to drive the reader’s curiosity. As Conner takes Janek and Chepi on their journey their differences come to light as they deal with matters or simply fill the time traveling with talk. Janek is talkative, outgoing, curious, and comes from a working class family which makes him accustomed to physical labor and working with his hands whereas Chepi is shy, introspective, guarded, and comes from a house of honored standing albeit one whose influence has diminished considerably.

You would be right to point out that something else is obviously different about these two. There’s an adage good writers will observe about their characters that, paraphrasing, cautions against treating them too preciously. In other words, put them through some type of trauma. Conner certainly does this with Chepi, who has a Fae mother and human father, on the topics of bigotry and to a lesser extent homophobia with Janek’s father’s abusive rhetoric. Favoring a more complex approach, Conner makes Chepi feel like an outsider in both Fae and human societies. Flashback scenes show Chepi living in a city and trying to make a new life initially filled with happiness by taking a human lover named Ishaan and the prospects of study at the university only to have anxiety mount as the pressure to conform becomes increasingly stressful while the bullying from strangers and institutionalized bigotry of the university deliver blows to his morale. For many writers this would be sufficient trauma to subject their characters. Conner goes further to look at discrimination/ exoticism and emotional abuse within the LGBTQ community. It’s a challenging scene to read which made me appreciate Chepi’s understated, hesitant, and awkward tendencies all the more. He’s trying to move on as best he can while protecting himself and coping with mental health issues. Conner tackles the topic with such compassion and empathy.  It’s quite touching.

Much of Finding Home’s charm is due to the small moments between Chepi and Janek and being privy to their interior thoughts. The below image excerpted from a page is a perfect example. A recurring line of interior monolog that Conner gives Janek is “You’re a terrible liar” is always in reaction to Chepi’s eloquent attempts to distract from confessing any feelings being called up at the moment whether towards Janek or memories from his past. One might presume Janek ought to be dull witted and imperceptive based on his background or perhaps I’m assigning a motive to Conner that isn’t there in this instance. At other times Conner allows the characters to get on each other’s nerves without becoming contentious as the intent is to draw them closer to one another through often subtle intrigue.

That isn’t to say that page after page of the story is all talking heads. Rather, Conner makes judicious use of tension and action to underscore the emotional and mental states of the principals and to drive their relationship forward. For example, a scene in the second volume shows Janek successfully persuading a reluctant Chepi to cross a deep stream. A fae in water is a fae out of their element so it’s only a surprise to Janek that Chepi loses his footing, goes under, and loses his pouch full of research notes causing a panicked Janek to take action. Several scenes highlighting a confident Chepi effectively and quietly dealing with malevolent wisps, faes of a much lower order, foreshadow an incident which shakes Chepi to his core and brings him to a realization and questioning whether to keep a promise he made to himself.

All of the artistic duties fall to Conner as well. One can see from the outset that Conner has a particular vision and their confidence in bringing it to the page growing as the story progresses from the opening page of volume one through to volume two’s cliffhanger ending. The assurance shows in figures becoming more solid, already deft gestures and facial expressions become more so, and the fictional spaces in this world become more grounded with each successive composition. Conner possesses a sophisticated painterly style and a color sense that employs mixing and overlays to create depth and convey a sense of place and time to bring this fantasy world alive. More than a few times I’ve found myself becoming lost in the greens, blues, purples, and earth tones found throughout both volumes. Conner uses very effective technique for flashback panels recalling particularly painful moments for Chepi. These panels are laid out at 45 degree angles to accentuate his stress and anguish and in especially stressful moments the panels become small and tightly focus on individual details inside jagged borders.

Several touches round out the artistic side of Finding Home. The work of letterers often goes overlooked as the primary goal is to be legible and, in the case of most mainstream comics, usually not draw attention to itself. The light-dark contrast of Janek’s and Chepi’s word balloons is simple and effective. In several scenes Conner weaves lettering into decorative visual elements. Between chapters a series of letters as Chepi and Priya the professor correspond provides insight into Chepi’s thoughts while the handwritten elements add visual interest.

Claire Napier should be mentioned for her work as the editor of Finding Home. A good editor supports the creative team and enhances their work while leaving any traces of themselves undetectable to the reader. Napier has a well earned editorial reputation and her seamless input to Finding Home is a further testament to her skill.

My mention of author Jeanette Winterson at the start was quite intentional. Perhaps you find her stories rather boring if you know of her work at all. Many of her stories, not all, I find entrancing. Connor has a way of piquing my curiosity that draws me into his fictional world to feel connected with Chepi and Janek. There are many small details that add to the narrative I’ve left out for you to discover on your own. A third volume is planned to complete the story and I look forward to learning whether Chepi and Janek follow their hearts.

Print copies of Finding Home are available for order from Conner’s Etsy shop.  Volume 1 at the moment with volume 2 following soon. Digital copies are available from Comixology and Gumroad.

Find Conner on Twitter or their site.

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