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So you’re in an arranged marriage, but you and your fiancé want to break it off, and when your parents demand an explanation, you tell them “I’m gay.” After a round of arguing in which you are now cut off from the family, what is the next step to take? A drunken bender. And during said bender, you make a pact with a stranger to drive from Berkley, California to Providence, Rhode Island, starting tomorrow. Amal wakes up after such a night, to discover his new driving partner: a heavily tattooed, folk song singing laidback guy, by name of TJ. The bargain is a simple one: Amal drives, TJ pays for food and gas. Coincidentally, Amal’s sister will graduate from Brown University in eight days, also located in Providence. On the outs with his parents and not willing to break his promise, Amal agrees to the terms. Two guys, one car, and three thousand miles of open country…what could go wrong?
What neither Amal nor TJ realize is this trip is about to get very complicated. But then again, isn’t love always?
What makes The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal truly unique is literary realism. Most webcomics will take place in fantasy or science fiction, with varying levels of realism. E.K. Weaver’s comic takes place solely in the real world, specifically the United States of America, sometime in 2003. A simple yet superb example is when the characters flip on the television, where small soundbites are heard of random but relative information: the upcoming 2004 presidential election, reality TV shows, and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, to name a few. Readers are not merely brought back to the start of the first millennial decade, they are transported back to the exact eight days it takes for TJ and Amal to cross the US, in the summer of a certain year. And Weaver’s writing only takes off from there.
The drawings are in a black-white-gray color scheme, with a sketch-book feel to it, as if peeking into the artist’s private files. The lines are rough, but this lends a charm to the story, presenting a reality that is not cookie-cutter perfect. In keeping with the realism genre, all proportions and shapes are natural, with no artistic deviation. Indeed, they almost look like a photograph sketched over with a rotoscoping tool.
Amal and TJ are both twenty-something millennials, and Weaver’s writing reflects it well. While there is nothing wrong with using a piece of media as a podium to discuss relative social issues and changes, Weaver does not expound, but shows. Two young guys meet up, one is gay, one is “a little of everything,” and nothing more need said. There is perhaps no better way of demonstrating the changing times by showing two average people enjoying the others company, accepting this as reality, instead of questioning and debating the differences.
Although the comic has officially ended, the site is still up, and Weaver continues to add side stories to the canon. Her writing is well-versed in human emotion and reaction, allowing the characters to live in a world that could be our own, were it not for the panel frames. You can read E.K. Weaver’s work and see her other projects at TJandAmal.com.