“Uhh…I got some antidepressants, so you know, yay.”
“That’s not anything---“
“to feel ashamed about, I know. I’m used to pills.”
“It can’t just be medication though, right?”
“Apparently it’s a pharmacy and therapy I need.”
“What kind of therapy?”
“Exposure, like, face something you’re afraid of?”
“Scared of cats, pet a cat kind of thing?”
Cole and Eva are in Winnipeg, and, with the help of a therapist, Cole is reflecting on what happened on Wounded Sky reserve. He realizes that, in order to confront the people at Mihko Laboratories, he must first overcome the trauma and PTSD he has experienced. If he isn’t successful, Cole fears that Mihko may go on to damage yet another community. Meanwhile, Eva realizes that she can be a support to Cole but, at the same time, can act on her own in this important battle.
David A. Robertson is an award-winning Indigenous author who brings indigenous superheroes into an action-packed story. This graphic novel continues the “Reckoner” trilogy, Strangers, Monsters and Ghosts. While Breakdown can certainly be read on its own, the earlier novels fill in many details which aid in understanding the plot and characters.
The story is centered around Cole whose mental breakdown is characterized by hallucinations and fears, and he realizes these can only be overcome by facing what has upset him. He works on his anxiety in a variety of ways, and Robertson introduces young adult readers to indigenous methods such as smudging as well as the ideas of talking with a therapist and taking medication in order to improve one’s mental health.
All characters in Breakdown are indigenous, and Eva is a strong role model, a young woman who doesn’t hesitate to step in and confront evil when she needs to. The superheroes and superpowers of the book are typical of those found in many fantasy novels.
Typical of graphic novels, the book is heavy on plot and action and illustration while relatively light on words. To this end, Robertson has an excellent team working with him. Scott B. Henderson is an award-winning author and illustrator and Donovan Yaciuk has done colouring work since 1998.
This short graphic novel packs in plenty of action, humour, strong indigenous characters and key observations on the need to maintain one’s mental health in order to accomplish goals. The format will appeal to readers of comics and other graphic materials while the message in Breakdown is important for everyone.
Ann Ketcheson, a retired teacher-librarian and high school teacher of English and French, lives in Ottawa. Ontario.