Esme, a barista, feels invisible, like a ghost.... Also, when Esme drinks too much coffee, she actually sees ghosts. That's how she met Gerry, her best friend and the ghost of a TV star. Enter Yara, the elegant heir to a coffee plantation, who’s mesmerizing always seen, but only has eyes for Esme.
Their world is turned upside down when the strange ghost of an old-world nobleman begs Esme to take his letter from NYC to a haunted coffee farm in Brazil, to reunite him with his lost love of a century ago, bringing sinister tidings of unrequited love.
From the terror to the romantic, through the anxiety and the cuteness of the usual, Crema uses a simple structure – theater-like three acts in its setup, conflict and resolution – and the pacing of climax and symbolism to tell a story way more complex.
This comic really feels like a cream coffee and will definitely root into you. The way the coffee flavor in itself attaches to the illustrations, to the coloring, then casually to the narration here and there, really drives the ghost feeling that is behind tasting so much as the story itself: bittersweet, tragic, and, ultimately, romantic and sweet. In every page, in every panel, the tone, the mood, and the personality of the story shines through. From the details of the fashion to the fact that even minor characters brim with personality, the way that all works to enrapture you with its melancholy and then plays with the heart is nothing short of masterful. The final pages of this book linger long after you finish it, much like the taste it beautifully emulates.
Alike creamy coffee and its ingredients, Crema presents its characters in a way that is not only enchanting, but feels closely tied to their lives. The first act is the blossoming of a friendship story and a love story that both are made possible by the magic of the casual, and is that sapphic love story which will stand up against the “unrequited love” (rightfully painted as abuse) of a white man who wants to possess and conquer. Some of the most impacting visuals of this comic, like that man devouring a gigantic mass of ghosts, work showcasing both the historical and emotional of certain seeds of evil. In this contrasting, dueling idea of what love is, we see also, through the lens of the creation of coffee, the ability to deter from a possessive, all consuming “love” and focus on a love of crafting. To build something rich, bittersweet, aromatic. Beautiful.
And it’s indeed beautiful how repeatedly chosen queer love between women of color, and one that survives conflict and confusion, gets rounded up in a tale that is also about finding home in what you share with the ones you love. And, of course, Esme’s friendship with Gerry is also an adorable central part, showcasing different types of chosen love and chosen family as defining, important and home-feely.
The artistic cosmos it recreates (and also the political/social decisions it entangles in the art) positions Brazil away from is largely shown urban lights and beach style in movies and media, and gets it geographically close to the proper weight to its characters. As its cover beautifully suggests, this complex and conflicted magical realism ghost story nails some down to earth relationships between characters, history, land and lots of sips of coffee.
To simply recommend Crema does it a small disservice. This book is a love letter to love swathed in the richest flavor imaginable. And one that enchants and haunts you with the taste of coffee all around it. It also doesn’t shy away from conflict, pain and trauma, shining a light on a historically rooted evil, but also survivorship of that conflict through queer love and friendship. All rounded up with the most astounding surroundings and scenarios.
Crema: A Haunted Coffee Lovestory
Writing - 10/10
Storyline - 10/10
Art - 10/10
Color - 10/10
Cover Art - 10/10
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