Week seventy of Lite Reads comes to a close as we finish our selection Rhizome by Libia Brenda and Richard Zela. There were questions as food for thought on social media as people had the chance to read it and think about it. Before I announce the next Lite Reads selection (January 12), I will be sharing my own thoughts here. Spoilers ahead for those who haven’t finished reading the story yet.
Rhizome by writer Libia Brenda and artist Richard Zela, with the Spanish to English translation by Libia Brenda and David Bowles, is a short science fiction comic. Set in 2043, the story features a young man named Alex visiting the home of Maria Luisa, a famous author who happens to be his personal favourite writer. Maria reveals that she is actually a time traveller from the future, born in 2164. She grows flowers that she brought back from the future, and Alex has one tattooed on him with exact detail without ever seeing one until this moment because he is connected to the time travel as well. While Maria has stayed in the past (the past to her) for many years, she has decided to go home to her own time, but she leaves Alex with the ability to travel to the past as well. When she arrives in her own time, she has a letter from Alex about his own time travel adventures and the work he has done to keep her house up for her.
While Rhizome is a very short story and leaves many details to the unknown or the imagination, it is still a delightful time travel story with a lot of information included in a short space. Rather than witnessing the time travel and experiencing it as part of the story, we experience a sort of calm and domestic moment in the lives of a longtime time traveller and a soon-to-be time traveller. I thought it was interesting to experience a moment of calm with the characters as they share information. I thought it was fun and refreshing to see how the travel was magical, but also intensely weaved into the literary and botanical nature of the characters’ lives. With two bookishly inclined characters, I thought it was fascinating to see that they time travelled using words.
As this is our first ever comic in almost a year and a half of Lite Reads, I think it’s especially important that we take the time to look at the art (although the artwork of comics should always be acknowledged, examined, appreciated, etc). While this style of art wouldn’t be a default preference for me, I do think it fits the story. The grey shading is really crisp and appealing. I feel like the artist especially managed to capture the wizened eccentricity of Maria while also capturing the fresh-faced curiosity of Alex. The background art is pretty, but it stays in the background, which is probably ideal with this sort of short comic story. Zela manages to provide the exact kind of art the story requires, and I think the way the story and art mesh together is one of the strongest points of Rhizome.
I do have a soft spot for stories about books, literature, writers, and anything or one of that nature, so I was inclined towards enjoying the focus on writers and their literature. Starting the story with Alex getting incredibly excited and nervous about Maria Luisa, a writer of speculative fiction short stories, was a very relatable moment. Getting a taste of both of the characters’ literary lives was genuinely a fun and interesting thing for me. The importance of words is apparent in this story, from the impact of literature on individual readers to the use of words to travel through time to even simply noting that the flower from the future is often referred to by an incorrect name. While I wouldn’t say the story is specifically about words and literature, I feel like it’s something important that is ingrained in the story, something the tale could not exist without.
Overall, Rhizome by Libia Brenda and Richard Zela was a deeply charming tale of time travel and literature. I don’t know that I’m in love with it or anything, I do think I would have enjoyed it more if it had been the length of a standard comic book or a little longer, but I definitely enjoyed what the author and artist gave us, and I would be curious to read more from either since this is my first time with both.
I hope everyone who participated by reading the story and following along on social media enjoyed the story. If you have more thoughts to add, please feel free to comment on this post, or anywhere on The Feminist Bibliothecary’s social media. Week seventy-one begins tomorrow, January 12, with a brand new short story selection!