Review: Archival Quality – Ivy Noelle Weir & Steenz

Review: Archival Quality – Ivy Noelle Weir & SteenzArchival Quality
by Ivy Noelle Weir, Steenz
Publisher: Oni Press
Publication Date: March 6, 2018
Genres: Graphic Novel
Pages: 280
Reading Challenges: Read Harder 2018
Source: NetGalley

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

My rating: One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

After losing her job at the library, Celeste "Cel" Walden starts working at the haunting Logan Museum as an archivist. But the job may not be the second chance she was hoping for, and she finds herself confronting her mental health, her relationships, and before long, her grasp on reality as she begins to dream of a young woman she's never met, but feels strangely drawn to. Especially after she asks Cel for help…

As Cel attempts to learn more about the woman, she begins losing time, misplacing things, passing out—the job is becoming dangerous, but she can't let go of this mysterious woman. Who is she? Why is she so fixated on Cel? And does Cel have the power to save her when she's still trying to save herself?

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4 stars icon graphic-novel

There’s definitely something creepy about certain old museums and libraries, and the thought of a ghost story set in one with a main character dealing with mental illness was very intriguing.  While it delivers on some of my expectations, unfortunately on some, it fell short of the mark for me.

After a nervous breakdown at work caused Cel to lose her job as a librarian, she’s somewhat relieved to find an opening as an archival assistant at a museum.  Surprisingly enough, it comes with an apartment located on-site, since the job has to occur at night during the museum’s off hours.  While at first Cel is hesitant about it, it’s slim pickings, as she doesn’t have a degree, and it seems like the move will give her some space from her well-meaning but suffocating boyfriend.  As she settles in to her job, strange things start happening – creepy noises, items moved or misplaced, weird dreams.  Her new boss is strange and distant, and her other coworker is obviously not telling her everything.  Is a ghost behind all the weird happenings, and if so, why has it chosen Cel?

I thought the mental illness aspect – both contemporary and historical – was handled well, and I empathized with Cel a lot.  I put off therapy and medication for years, and I understood her prickly reactions to those close to her.  Sometimes, the last thing you want when you’re depressed is someone who wants to “try to make it all better” or “fix you” or thinks making silly jokes will suddenly make everything alright.  My favorite part was when the ghost was acting up and basically trashing the place.  Aba is hesitant to help out the ghost due to her violent tendencies, while Cel disagrees with him, telling him that she’s angry – and she should be!  This really resonated with me, especially with all the conversations being led by women (#MeToo, Women’s March, etc) where they’re being told the equivalent of “well, yeah, your message is good, but can’t you be more polite about it?”  Sometimes, anger isn’t just understandable, it’s absolutely necessary.

Archival Panel 1

Cel’s attempts to help the ghost are hindered by her own and others’ perceptions of her mental illness – that it’s all in her head.  Holly, her supervisor, has the best response – helping Cel try to figure out who the ghost is won’t cause any harm, so she supports her and helps her without making her think she’s being ridiculous.

While I liked the art, it sometimes didn’t work with the creepiness of the story for me.  I thought the color palette was wonderful, but the cartoony nature of it was more distracting.  Just not my cup of tea for this particular genre.  However, I especially loved the diverse character designs, and Holly, with her purple and blue hair and chic wardrobe, as my favorite.  She also has my favorite panel in the whole comic:

Archival 2

The explanation for the ghost’s anger and resolution of that were hinted at very well in the story, but I found parts of the resolution (View Spoiler ») unsatisfying.  Overall, though, this was a quick and creepy read, with a lot of hidden depth.






Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

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