SUGAR TOWN by Hazel Newlevant


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In this graphic novel, the simple story of two weeks in the life of a young woman provides insights into the complexities of polyamorous relationships.

Away from her New York home and boyfriend while visiting her parents in Portland, Oregon, for the holidays, Hazel feels a little insecure walking into a queer dance party on her own. But her nervousness disappears when she makes a connection with the warm and friendly Argent, a lesbian sex worker, whose dominatrix handle just happens to be Hazel. As flirting turns into affection, Hazel tells Argent about Gregor, a New York graphic artist with whom she has an open relationship (“We’re open, or poly, or whatever”). Hazel is equally honest with Gregor, who, between phone calls and Skype sessions with her, is enjoying a visit from his other girlfriend, Rebecca. While Hazel seems calm about this situation, she confesses to Gregor at one point: “I’m irrationally worried you’ll ditch me for her.” Negotiating the fine line between attraction and jealousy, Hazel ultimately manages to accomplish the tricky feat of launching a loving bond with Argent while strengthening her connection with Gregor. Newlevant’s (If This Be Sin, 2013, etc.) vivid illustrations show the clear influence of Japanese manga style, with its stylized portrayal of facial features and character poses. The author’s subtly colored panels are attractively detailed, and her characters are well-drawn, both literally and figuratively. Hazel’s innocent idealism and Argent’s sexy warmth are conveyed in dialogue, body language, and costumes (the bunny romper Argent wears for her birthday date with Hazel being a prime example). Their nontraditional relationships are presented in a straightforward manner as both normal and successful. In fact, the major thing missing from their story is convincing narrative tension. Hazel’s moments of jealousy and anxiety are brief and easily overcome, and Argent and Gregor seem almost too open and accepting to be true. Hazel’s up-close encounter with Argent’s dominatrix side ends with pain medication and cuddles but little insight into the passions that draw lovers into sadomasochistic play. But the comic format is especially appropriate for providing a peek into alternative romance, and Hazel’s story is a sweet and positive look at youthful experimentation.

A lushly illustrated comic that explores bisexuality, queer culture, and unconventional sex through the upbeat story of a woman’s vacation romance.

Pub Date: Oct. 17th, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-68148-587-4
Page count: 56pp
Publisher: Alternative Comics
Program: Kirkus Indie
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