June 03, 2024

The Deep Dark

By Molly Knox Ostertag
Review by
The Deep Dark is a moving and eerie graphic novel exploring identity, generational trauma and queer love.
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Magdalena Herrera has a lot of responsibilities. On top of trying to finish high school, she works a part-time job and is the sole caregiver for her grandmother. Mags has a lot of secrets as well. She’s hooking up with a girl who has a boyfriend. And every night she disappears down a trapdoor in her house, and emerges drained in more than one way.

Then her childhood best friend, Nessa, shows up for the first time in a decade, and starts asking questions the Herreras don’t want anyone to ask. What’s more, Nessa is stirring up feelings that Mags long ago accepted people in her family can never have. But Nessa has secrets, too, and the girls are about to learn the hard way that secrets thrive best in the dark.

The Deep Dark is a moving and eerie graphic novel exploring identity, generational trauma and queer love. Molly Knox Ostertag takes the successful elements of her previous books, The Girl From the Sea and The Witch Boy trilogy, and elevates them. Her characters are complex and nuanced, and their dialogue is natural and impassioned. Ostertag expertly interweaves magical realism and mystery into what is also an adorable love story.

The art is stunning, with expressive characters and the beautiful setting of the Southern California desert. Ostertag twists typical comic conventions, coloring the present almost exclusively in black and white, while the flashbacks are in full color, making it apparent that Mags’ life has been in shades of gray since Nessa left. Page gutters are black during night scenes, intensifying the creepiness. Throughout, Ostertag’s dynamic illustrations elicit emotional responses; for example, panels get progressively smaller during a moment of panic, literally creating tunnel vision.

The Deep Dark leaves some questions unanswered, but that’s the point: A conflict as intricate as the one in this story cannot be wrapped up neatly. But as Ostertag discusses in her author’s note, this graphic novel follows the “first careful steps of unraveling,” and you’ll root for Mags and Nessa to keep taking those steps.

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The Deep Dark

The Deep Dark

By Molly Knox Ostertag
ISBN 9781338840001

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