Mel Valentine

In this year’s annual Comics Issue, our fifth and biggest one yet, we explore the many ways in which images can tell stories—simply, dramatically, mysteriously. 

Stories rarely make sense if they’re not grounded in the place and time in which they occur. Visual storytelling is uniquely positioned to portray the setting, its objects and people both slowly and at a glance, leaving room for the reader to sift through the story in small bits and pieces, or devour it all at once. 

Some of the comics in this issue explore moments of quiet victory, like Aim Beland finding acceptance and letting go of fear in a trans inclusive community after moving to Chicago. Others present straightforward accounts, such as Leila Abdelrazaq’s unflinching explanation of connections between an Israeli company and U.S. border enforcement technology. 

In the issue’s longest comic, as sunshine gao finishes a crowded shift at a dumpling restaurant, the busy, fluid panels of dinnertime hustle end in tranquil, post-rush dishwashing—an artist shepherding us gently along to a calm and happy place. That it’s immediately undercut by a piece of shocking news is more evidence of how illustrated narratives can pacify and gut us in quick succession. 

Images can hide just as easily as they can illuminate. Katie Hill’s depiction of the colorful atmosphere at a beloved, now-closed café, based on reporting by Helena Duncan, is only one part of a deeper, more troubling picture that took much digging to unearth. And will we ever find out what happens to the leaf creature in Mell Montezuma’s “I Don’t Exist Here”? 

We’d be remiss not to give props where they’re due—to the many artists and illustrators who worked tirelessly on their pieces, but also to the incredible visuals editors that made it all happen. In particular, we owe a lot to Ellen Hao, who’s leaving her position as the Weekly’s visual editor after three-and-a-half years. Few people have done more to shape the look of the paper that you’re holding in your hands now. 

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Church Business”: Sanctuary Cafe was supposed to be a much-needed space for the marginalized, but it lasted just two years. What went wrong? Story by Helena Duncan, comic by Katie Hill

Gender: Custom” by Aim Beland

Bad Blood” by Amber Huff

Popcorn” by Andrea Pearson

I Don’t Exist Here” by Mell Montezuma

Single-Issue Voter” by Leila Abdelrazaq

Las Cosas Cambian” by David Alvarado

For the First Time” by sunshine gao

Dogs I’ve Walked” by Grace Culloton

Friends?” by Mike Centeno

Making Friends” by Rachel Bard

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