Hot Comb is Flowers’ debut book and it’s a hugely impressive one, placing Flowers’ intellectual strength upfront. On one hand, these are slice of life stories, filled with life and energy, and the product of someone who is obviously a keen observer of humanity. Flowers’ dialogue is so natural and her portrayals of conversation so realistic, and her words are in perfect partnership with her cartooning. Her figures are alive, with rich body language ... But Flowers’ skill at depicting the intimate are just one aspect of how fully-realized her talent springs forth in this book. What makes it so special is the way she wraps these elements around larger themes of race without ever making you feel like you are reading A Very Important Work With A Heavy Purpose. Rather, Flowers lets the characters be themselves, lets the situations unfold, and by bringing these together, lets the big themes come out naturally and — more important — decisively. The narratives in Hot Comb make the point. The characters make the point. You learn through the experience. You learn through empathy. Hot Comb is like a masterclass in how to make comics.
... exhilarating ... Flowers skillfully enlists distinctive markers of black hair culture to expose the vulnerability deeply encoded in black women’s struggle for agency. Inky tactile sketches pull readers into a mode of contemplative storytelling that sets Hot Comb apart, even as it builds on the familiar structures of graphic memoir and quotidian slice-of-life comics. The loose, thick lines of Flowers’ drawing style generate bulbous body shapes and elastic facial expressions that shift easily between the nuanced perspectives of the characters and unrestrained moments of emotional intensity. While she is undoubtedly influenced by her work with cartoonist Lynda Barry, Flowers’ aesthetic approach has its own distinct cast, its own precision and creative flair ... Flowers is particularly adept at representing the dense, curly textures of black hair.
...[a] slim but powerful [debut] ...Between her stories, showing off her sly humor and ethnographer’s eye, Flowers intersperses faux advertisements for hair care products ... Flowers’s loose, expressive line is a little messy, a little scribbly, with both cursive and all-caps text floating through the images. She is a protégée of the great cartoonist of childhood, Lynda Barry, also known for her expressive style ... In 'Hot Comb,' bodies can meld into each other, and texture and shadow sometimes make the action hard to distinguish. But this imprecise style works for these stories, which are so often about the anxieties of correct appearance.
Each story lends an ear to so many relatable moments yet keeps the focus on women and the world that they live using a lens of Blackness ... there’s a lot to read, love, roll your eyes over and process. What’s not absent is the thread of recognizing how trauma and emotional labor weave themselves in several stories that ring true ... I was stoked when looking at the art as it carried a heavy Lynda Barry influence, so the book itself as a whole carried me back to my childhood in more ways than one ... Flowers’ art style bares influence yet blossoms in its own and comes alive on the page ... [Flowers's] charming art may look a bit rough in certain sequences, yet it is so charming–facial expressions and grand gestures like dancing and movement shine the brightest ... isn’t a book you should ignore if you want to read more work by Black women. Especially if you love comics. Period.
black hair proves to be a rich symbol for interpreting the insidious politics of race and class that play out each day in the lives of black Americans. Flowers's stories do not attempt to mask the harshness of poverty and racism, and they do not romanticize hardship. What Hot Comb does instead is celebrate the devotion of black mothers, the creativity of black children and the ingenuity inherent in the black experience. This is a deeply impressive debut and belongs on the bookshelf between Lynda Barry and Claudia Rankine. Ebony Flowers is a cartoonist to watch
Flowers is a remarkable cartooning talent. From the title story, impatient readers might think they have her style pegged: the rough black-and-white sketchy autobio cartoonist, like a Julie Doucet or Aline Kominsky-Crumb. But it’s readily apparent just a few pages in that every stylistic decision Flowers makes is deliberate, and that she has many more tools in her toolbox than 'just' a confessional sketchbook style ... a major comics debut — it’s the kind of book that will either herald the beginning of a long and successful cartooning career, or it’s the debut of a talent who will get swept up by Hollywood and away from comics forever. Whether Ebony Flowers is the next Lynda Barry or the next Marjane Satrapi — or something else entirely — is up to her. But no matter what happens next, we have this book, and that’s plenty.
There are a lot of autobiographical graphic novels around these days, so making a book that stands out isn’t easy. With Hot Comb, Ebony Flowers has created one that’s particularly engaging, with a mixture of day-to-day events and compelling storytelling that shows she deserves to be seen as a breakout talent ... Flowers’ art style is excellent, with subtle character acting hidden in drawings that seem simple.
... zeroes in on the sort of intrinsically Black experience that the industry is finally starting to acknowledge, with a glimpse into a Black beauty salon and the stories and gossip shared over perms and other treatments ... allow[s] Flowers to interrogate intersections of race, class and identity with a perspective that is vital in comics, now more than ever.
... carefully crafted and deeply felt ... Flowers employs a dazzling array of illustration and storytelling techniques across the eight stories here, which all somehow revolve around black women’s hair but manage to encompass an enormous range of experiences—coming of age, coping with grief, classism, family drama, friendship, dealing with stereotypes and racism at home and abroad—with heart, humor, and an unflinching determination to deliver truth free from sentimentality ... Readers are sure to find these stories moving and illuminating, and may be shocked to discover, given the talent on display, that this is Flower’s first book.
Flowers taps into the pride Black women take in caring for hair and the broad cultural milieu and conversations surrounding it. While the black-and-white artwork can be amateurish and the overall flow is uneven, the themes are certainly underrepresented within the comics tradition and should draw a greater audience for Black women’s voices. Pop-culture references from the 1990s...will evoke warm nostalgia in the most senior millennials, though they might not resonate with younger adults. The work’s embedded discourses of class, race, and internalized European beauty standards concerning 'good hair,' however, transcend generations.
Flowers’s exploration of black women’s relationships to their hair is rich with both sorrow and celebration as it champions black womanhood and family ties ... Her portrayal of motherhood is particularly affecting: only in the company of other women, engaging in the intimate rituals of hair care, do mothers voice their joy, worry, and anger. The artwork is joyfully tangled, its densely looped lines creating panels that reflect the characters’ crowded environs ... Lynda Barry is credited as Flowers’s mentor, and her style influence is apparent in this exuberance. Flowers’s vibrant and immersive coming-of-age tales are set in a world that may often be cruel, but is never without communion (and some funny moments)—even if she’s got to endure a few chemical burns along the way.