When a new graphic novel comes with blurbs from comic creator heavyweights like Neil Gaiman and Kelly Sue DeConnick, plus a foreword by Hollywood writer-producer Damon (Lost, Watchmen) Lindelof, well, you sit up and pay attention.
That’s the case of young adult fantasy tale Adora and the Distance, a comiXology Original from entertainment journalist turned award-winning screen and comics writer Marc (Genius, Static Shock) Bernardin and artist Ariela (Insexts, The Logan Legacy) Kristantina. The pair enjoy the creative team backing of colourist Bryan Valenza, letterer Bernardo Brice, and editor Will Dennis.
In Adora and the Distance, the title character is a girl who leads an idyllic life as the ward of Lord Rafael, the benevolent ruler of a port city. Adora’s “happy routine” is shattered when she starts dreaming of the Distance, a nebulous force that destroys everything it touches. Because it only pursues those who dream about it, Adora resolves to face it far from home. And because she is so loved, Lord Rafael assembles a diverse band of warriors, mystics and adventurers to accompany Adora on her quest, providing additional protection and guidance.
More One Thousand and One Nights than Western high fantasy, Adora and the Distance becomes more magically touched as it progresses. Ever pursued, Adora and her companions encounter the likes of cave pirates, displaced ghosts and volcano gods.
Expected genre tropes are present in Adora and the Distance. You know the drill. Companions sacrifice themselves and fall behind so that Adora can advance. Apparent villains are not as evil as they first appear. A faceless figure finally reveals themselves when it matters most. At the same time, though, the briskly-paced comic does offer something different, something new, in a couple of key ways.
Notably, the graphic novel’s protagonist, the incredibly likeable Adora – warm hearted, wise beyond her years, and courageous without being cocky – is a young woman of colour. Adora and the Distance broadens representation without making a deal about it, providing young readers with greater diversity in its depiction of heroes and heroism. On that note, Adora’s victories are typically accomplished through intelligence, politeness and compassion, not violence.
Adora and the Distance is also more closely linked to our reality than it appears at first. Released to coincide with Father’s Day 2021, the story is a decade-long labour of love from creator Bernardin, who resolved to imagine the inner world of his autistic daughter.
Upfront awareness of the inspiration behind Adora and the Distance does arguably spoil the graphic novel’s biggest twist (sorry!). However, it doesn’t dampen the book’s power. Adora and the Distance is a bittersweet look at the experience of autistic children: how they are torn between the comforting universes in their mind, and the uncontrollable world outside, which is nonetheless home to their loved ones. Adora and the Distance is full of jaw-dropping wonder and adventure, but struggle and sacrifice always sit on the other side of the scale to add welcome emotional weight.
The graphic novel’s impact is heightened by Kristantina’s lavish, highly detailed artwork, which is somewhere between Art Nouveau and a classic illustrated fairy tale collection. The effect is further enhanced by Valenza’s sumptuous colouring, which goes full watercolour at times.
Adora and the Distance is beautiful, moving and best experienced with no fore knowledge of the fantasy adventure’s true intention. It’s available now digitally via comiXology and the Amazon Kindle Store. Members of Amazon Prime, Kindle Unlimited, and comiXology Unlimited can read the book for no extra cost.
Last Updated: June 17, 2021