Hattaway, Paul & Rival, Rico – Yun: The Illustrated Story of Brother Yun, The Heavenly Man

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  1. Profile photo of Michael YangMichael Yang

    Graphic Novel Critique
    Michael Yang
    Women were forcibly sterilized for violating the one child policy and believers were persecuted because of their differences with the communist party. This was China in the 80s. Despite the economic reformation in 1978 which called for a more open society, underlying the phoniness of bureaucracy, society was still lack of religious freedom, still lack of human rights, and flooded with outdated notions of socialism. The graphic novel “Yun” written by Yun and Paul Hattaway and illustrated by Hattaway vividly depicts the restrictive societal environment through the lens of the main character Yun. Yun, which portrays the author himself, is a devoted believer to God, but is tortured and tormented because of China’s social environment. Facing the challenges toward his beliefs, Yun undoubtedly chooses God. The graphic novel praises the nobility of Yun’s beliefs, and reveals the malevolence of the Chinese society during the 80s.

    This novel is intriguing for its artwork and themes. The artwork in “Yun” has no exaggerated visuals. There are barely any onomatopoeias and emanates, which are key components for an action based graphic novel. However the artworks in “Yun” are special for its excessive details in characters and subtle emotional changes. This is more impactful as exaggerated visuals can only temporarily agitate readers, whilst details have more long lasting effects. For example, when Yun meets his son who is beginning to have doubts in Jesus, Yun is highly anxious. The illustrator used 4 panels just to show Yun’s emotional changes. This not only enables readers to sense the tense mood, it also results as readers empathizing with Yun. The themes on the other hand are truly remarkable, similarities can be found between this graphic novel and the award winning film Shawshank Redemption. They both depict how faith is able to save men from woeful situations disregarding the impossibility of troubles at hand. “Yun” describes a true story of Christianity saving a man from despair. Persistence is also a theme expressed through the graphic novel.

    The core weakness of the graphic novel however also pertains to the artwork, with the major reason being the short attention span of readers. Although it sends a highly powerful message, this graphic novel uses black and white colorings and without exaggerated visuals, it is really hard to keep readers focused. If emanates and onomatopoeias are used more frequently it will certainly add a unique taste to the graphic novel.

    As for target audiences, the graphic novel is suitable for religious believers, especially Christians, because the graphic novel “Yun” truly shows how beliefs can save people, and conveys the importance of defending beliefs no matter what society values. In general, teenagers should also read it, because persistence is also a theme expressed. Today people are fickler than ever, technologies and social media are really becoming huge parts of people’s lives, reading this will allow teenagers to appreciate their lives more, instead of constantly posting their photoshopped selfies on snapchat.

    This graphic novel should definitely be considered as literature. In a broad sense, literature is any work that can have a lasting effect on readers. This graphic novel certainly has accomplished that prerequisite and in a fairly well manner. Paragraphs, stanza, and words do indeed play an irreplaceable role in literature. But there was a time when writings did not exist, where literature was conveyed verbally. Graphic novels can be seen as an evolvement of literature. Although mediums of conveyance are different between graphic novels, and conventional literature, one cannot deny the profound effects graphic novels, especially this one has on readers.

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