The second chapter of writer Saif Ahmed and artist Fabiana Mascolo’s “Yasmeen” takes a deft and delicate approach to immensely unsettling subject matter. This comic’s goal of presenting the effects of mass conflict and sexual trauma is handled with a practiced hand that focuses not so much on the acts themselves, but on people’s and society’s inability to understand these effects. With an emotionally devastating script and gorgeous, character-focused artwork, “Yasmeen” #2 is a comic that strikes at the heart of this series’ subject matter and does it in a remarkable manner.
“During the ISIS invasion of Mosul, Yasmeen and her uncle are stopped by one of Iraq’s infamous fake checkpoints, where Yasmeen’s uncle was murdered. Now Yasmeen finds herself at the mercy of a family of fanatics, while two years later in America, Yasmeen’s family pushes her back to school in hopes that she would forget the past and move on. Powerfully written by Iraqi immigrant, Saif A. Ahmed, YASMEEN is a dramatic coming of age drama in a time of war.”
Writing & Plot
Where the first issue of “Yasmeen” introduces Yasmeen’s family dynamic and the beginning of the tragedy that befalls them, this second issue focuses on the exact events Yasmeen went through after ISIS’s attack – and the trauma she has been struggling with ever since. Writer Saif Ahmed wastes no time in setting up her mental, emotional, and physical struggles both during and after her time as a captive and slave. Be forewarned, this is a difficult comic to get through, and warnings for traumatic content (rape and abuse) will hopefully be posted on this issue’s release. The comic’s difficulty is entirely in its content however, as Ahmed’s work handles such subjects with a deft and knowledgable hand. Often when writers (specifically male writers) handle these subjects, they end up – intentionally or not – fetishizing the subject in some manner. Ahmed makes no such mistake here, as the scenes where such actions occur are handled in a way that is disturbing not in a physically visceral way, but an entirely emotional one. My stomach turned not because of what I saw on the page, but because of what I couldn’t see happening but still knew damn well what occurred behind closed doors. Much like the first issue, Ahmed skillfully darts among three plot threads: one is Yasmeen and her family in their new life in America, one is in Mosul before the attack, and the third is during Yasmeen’s time in captivity. Each thread is used to complement the events of the others. This issue specifically points out the mundanity of everyday life and of her parents’ expectations, and really the expectations of the whole of society, in the face of what Yasmeen has undergone. Ahmed wastes no words or moments in this comic, as every moment has a connection to another from one part of Yasmeen’s life to the next. Each sequence is rife with analogy and metaphor, but it never feels pretentious or cluttered. There is a serious mastery of the art on display in this issue, and while this is not a joyous issue to read, it is handled with a grace and expertise seldom seen in this or any medium.
All of Ahmed’s careful scripting would be for naught if a talented visual storyteller wasn’t on board to bring the vision to life. Fortunately, “Yasmeen” #2 has the gifted Fabiana Mascolo as an artist. The thin penciling and light color palette she brings to the table are a superb visual match for the story being told. Mascolo’s thin lines and minimal inks craft an airy but detailed visual aesthetic, with a focus on character expressions and colors. Her choice of color is unique as well, with a lighter palette of soft tans and blues that complement the delicate pencils perfectly. Her sense of visual storytelling is expressed through how she expertly interprets emotion and action in each and every panel. From shock to pain, from unspeakable rage to fatherly love, Mascolo’s artistic nuance is the prime reason why this comic is so affecting. As with many great comics, the silent moments are often the most effective, and there are several in this comic that will stay in my memory for some time to come.
“Yasmeen” #2 is a devastating and emotionally haunting comic that handles its abrasive subject matter with a delicate hand seldom seen in any medium. Writer Saif Ahmed touches on the experiences of a young woman sold into slavery in a time of war, and the surrounding world’s inability to recognize the aftereffects of such trauma. He focuses on her family’s need to move on like their old life never happened, all while they fail to see that she will never truly be able to leave it behind. Artist Fabiana Mascolo brings a delicate and detailed visual style to this issue that beautifully humanizes its cast, and crafts some of the most memorable and painful realizations seen in a comic in recent years. “Yasmeen” has already proven itself to be a project of immense importance, and I highly recommend picking up this issue from your local comic shop when it releases on 8/19.