Created by Sebastian Kadlecik and published by Fanbase Press, Quince answers to the cynic but reads like sunshine. Fifteen year old, Lupita, is about to celebrate her quinceañera, or “Mexican bar mitzvah,” as one of her peers has parsed out. In the aftermath of extending party invites to her entire class, Lupita’s social standing balloons out of proportion and she doesn’t know what to think. Carried to delightful absurdity, adoring eyes follow her down the hallway and turn when she raises her hand in class. Fully cognizant that such uniformity and reversal of attention doesn’t happen without motive (or laugh gas), there’s no denying that the changes at school are positive, and for everyone in attendance.
Before Lupita’s quinceañera, artist, Emma Steinkellner, draws a high school where everyone has the spooked deer look from fear of making eye contact (her shading around eyes and noses giving faces extra depth). Instead of aligning cliques and marking out who’s popular, Emma hits at the truth of high school with pinpoint accuracy. Everyone is about to lose their cool. Nobody believes others feel out of place, too.
There’s a way this comic could come from a very dark place of fake friendship and fleeting fame but writer, Kit Steinkellner, doesn’t make Lupita angry or bitter. Her peers may not be close friends but they’re not her enemies. It’s the loneliness that aches in a panel Emma douses in blue, or has Lupita huddled on the floor of her bathroom, over the prospect of her party, that are tough. At home with her co-conspirator, Abuela, Lupita gets to be herself, charismatic and droll. There’s a panel where Abuela, always seen with a mischievous glint in her eye, asks “How many boys fell in love with you today, mija?” “All of them, Abuela. Just like they do everyday.” Lupita’s effortless stance punctuates her point comically.
That’s high school (and life). It doesn’t matter how awesome of a person you are. Friends aren’t always a given and crippling anxiety is always ready with illogic and unrelenting refusal to be pushed aside lightly. Stricken with the idea of making a mistake, Lupita’s anxiety is as relatable as her happiness watching Buffy on Netflix, but seldom rendered with the accessibility that it is in this comic.
Something is happening to Lupita. Triggered by a bout of distress in her bathroom, Lupita finds herself coming into powers she doesn’t understand and, for all that she loves and trusts Abuela, she couldn’t be more coy about them. Spending issue two convincing herself she imagined everything, Lupita will have to try harder if she’s going to explain what happens at the end.
Quince #1 and #2 are available in English and Spanish on Comixology. Pre-order the trade paperback HERE.