Momotekku is the first published graphic novella outside of self-published comics from 2021 Broken Frontier ‘Six to Watch’ artist Alxndra Cook. It brings together all the staples of her sequential storytelling that’s made her work such a draw in recent years. There are those mythological motifs and supernatural overtones that she has revisited time and again in comics like Kiyomi’s Prequel and Ghostly Thoughts. Then there’s the emotional depth of her work on Wednesday’s Child and Moonlit. And, of course, it need go unsaid that the manga influences on her delicate, almost fragile approach to the page are once more firmly in evidence.
Koguchi Press are the publisher who were canny enough to snap up this first longer-form work from Cook, and they have made a wise choice in terms of tactile presentation, giving it a physical format that suits its manga-inspired beginnings. Where Momotekku diverges from Cook’s previous narrative work, though, is in its fusion of legend and tech; science fantasy fully realised as a genre.
The story opens with a retelling of the creation myth of the book’s world and the roles of two deity-like beings. Momotekku, who was “crafted from peach flesh and metal” and built the world herself, and her male counterpart and lover Akuma who was responsible for the birth of the demonic Oni. In the present day we are introduced to a society where humanity has adopted internal hardware, death is described as decommissioning, and where a number of young women have recently gone missing.
It’s here that our protagonist Ai lives and where her fateful quest, so intrinsically linked to the legend of Momotekku, begins. With the company of a magical canine called simply Dog, and her comrade Munki, Ai finds herself looking for answers to recent events by seeking out the legendary Akuma, the god of the ogres. But her travels will be fraught with peril and, along the way, she will discover the cyclical realities of her own existence…
In Momotekku Cook explores ideas of self-discovery, acceptance and rebirth but frames them in a non-stop fantasy adventure story. There’s a lot going on here and if there’s one weakness to the book it’s that we don’t really have a chance to absorb and appreciate the world-building involved in this alternate world to the degree it deserves. That, however, only ensures the reader’s desire to know more about this society and keep their hopes up for a sequel. But, on its own established terms, Momotekku is both a fun romp and a subtle exploration of the themes that sit at its heart.
Cook’s use of colour has always been an integral part of her storytelling and here the peach-like hues that are infused into every page are employed to spectacular effect in maintaining mood and creating rich atmosphere. Every new comic offering from Cook shows a marked increase in confidence and Momotekku is no different. Panels that sit within word balloons, lettering effects that display a crackling sense of energy, and full-page zoom-outs that emphasise the sheer majesty and scale of the environments Ai finds herself in; they all underline how Cook continues to hone her storytelling craft with precision and careful thought. It’s going to be fascinating to see where she goes with her storytelling in future but in the meantime a follow-up to Momotekku would be a great and welcome start.
Alxndra Cook (W/A) • Koguchi Press, £16.00
Review by Andy Oliver