Hannah’s experience is highly specific, and because Davis’ storytelling is so natural and lived in, Hannah’s feelings of uncertainty and fear become universal to anyone who feels a surge of panic when they hear about current events ... Davis’ art style is vital to this emotional rapport. When you simplify a character drawing, it becomes easier for the observer to project their own identity onto it...This simplification is an essential reason why cartooning is such an expressive art, and Davis is a master of creating distinct characters with minimalist linework that invites deeper personal connection from the reader. The acting is full of emotion, and Davis captures facial expressions, body language, and gestures with curving, wiry lines that imbue the artwork with both spontaneity and grace ... Davis does not create joyless art. No matter how intense the subject matter, she finds moments of humor that make the reader want to spend time with these characters and emotionally invest in their struggles ... These design decisions all play a part in the book’s emotional tapestry, but the high point of this intersection between design and narrative comes during the book’s final pages. Like the gun moment, it’s a sequence where the act of holding is very important, presenting five two-page splashes all from the same point of view and drawn to scale. This puts the reader even deeper inside the holder’s perspective, and the book’s size is what sells the effect. Each small change from splash page to splash page increases the gravity of the life-affirming event, ending the story by presenting readers with a physical embodiment of hope in the palm of their hands.
Books sometimes come around at such a timely moment, and speak to you in such a precise way, that it’s almost alarming ... so close to home I almost dropped The Hard Tomorrow in shock twenty pages in ... Davis’ narrative, which unfolds slowly and then sheds awful layers like a dying plant before its final cathartic and beautiful conclusion, doesn’t just speak to those of us who make it our business to do something about the way the world is heading. Its narrative strength is going beyond its narrow corridors of story, in which we see very few people other than its principles in any depth or color, to remind us that even we don’t seek to change the world, the world comes after us and changes us. The tragedies and victories of Hannah and Johnny skirt around being mere escalations of drama for the sake of plot and make a mad dash towards the end, providing a purely exhilarating reminder that hope and despair are two strands forever intertwined, and that living through both of them is a struggle we all face no matter how we try to position ourselves ... Davis has narrative gifts, but they’d be wasted if she wasn’t such a tremendous illustrator. From the book’s gorgeously colored, Edenic cover to its wordless and striking final pages, her skill at composition buoys the story at every turn, creating a seamless whole that makes it one of the best comics I’ve read in a particularly rich year for the medium. It’s sexy, gripping, funny, dark, and moody, with the outdoor scenes pastoral and bright and the urban drama surrounded by pools of black ink and claustrophobic angles. There are so many perfect little details ... the culmination of a steady progression in [Davis'] work that is now so fully realized it demands our attention ... this is a book that finds that razor’s edge between irrelevance and datedness and balances there with the expertise of a gymnast.
Davis illustrates her story simply; her pen-and-ink drawings render Hannah’s world in black and white, which feels like an echo of Hannah’s inner life. She is struggling to determine whether the world is stark and binary, either good or bad, or whether there are shades of gray ... Throughout, Davis subtly hints at a tension between Hannah’s idyllic, almost Eden-like existence in the woods with Johnny and the outside world, which threatens their loving harmony ... The Hard Tomorrow makes me feel understood, and it’s a reminder that even if everything is awful, much is beautiful. The world renews itself, over and over. Spring, at least, will come. We keep going.
I’ve not seen that particular aspect of modern American life captured as well as Eleanor Davis does in The Hard Tomorrow. There’s a mist winding through the book’s drama, the cloud of paranoia, and it creates a philosophical union amongst the different sections of the book ... Davis has chosen to portray her characters as multi-faceted human beings rather than types, any of whom have aspects you might like and you might dislike, and this leads to more than a few conflicted reactions to what happens ... ends on a hopeful note, but the mist still lingers and manifests in the the idea that this paranoia the characters feel might not all be misguided.
You want to read a story that will put your heart through a wringer? You want characters of all kinds – among both the oppressors and the oppressed, as well as history’s wannabe disinterested bystanders – who are encountered in fully human, alive-and-breathing detail? Then you want to read this book. You want to read this book and maybe also do what you can to support your local chapter of the ACLU. At least ... And, since The Hard Tomorrow is a work of sequential art, you’ll want to know about the visuals that are part of what communicates this rich and often tense, sometimes (gently or darkly) funny, narrative. If you’re unfamiliar with Davis’ stuff, you might wonder: Can this woman draw? But you can see the book’s cover right here. Or you can click a few times on your screen and catch other glimpses of what Eleanor Davis can do in black-and-white, with pen and ink – glimpses of the sort of work gorgeously reproduced in this new hardcover from Drawn & Quarterly.
... one of the year’s best and most important comics ... Hannah is a hero who neither needs to fill up the room or the page with the noise of her own personality, nor dissolves into the flame of whichever charismatic character she’s with. You’d think such full fledged mutuality in comics characters should be common, but don’t overlook how finely balanced Eleanor Davis manages to keep every key character dynamic in this book ... Davis is brilliantly efficient at bringing Hannah’s community to life in quick but lively strokes ... isn’t light pop fluff, as the touches of Cinéma vérité and the incredibly artful chiaroscuro dramatic climaxes prove. But the effervescence of that pop music is a key to the simple fortitude that makes Hannah astounding and makes The Hard Tomorrow powerful ... the most beautiful thing about The Hard Tomorrow is that Eleanor Davis, who dedicates the book to their at-the-time-unborn child, seems to insist that we should enter the future neither with ignorance nor with despair ... cements [Davis's] place as one of comics’ most important voices.
Sensitive, intimate illustrations take the pulse of Hannah’s strivings beautifully, with Davis’s signature visual language of gentleness and strength doing much of the narrative’s emotional work. Although seen through one woman’s eyes, the work makes a broader statement about the radical act of hope that is caring deeply for others, and perhaps bearing a child into a broken world ... Davis’s subtle take on a major philosophical question is an efficient and affective read for anyone struggling to find purpose in trying times.
Davis is a master of her etched-looking, black-and-white style, slowing the pace and adding gravity to frames by dialing up her use of black, shadows, and contrast, as in a two-page spread that shows a protest from above: an energized mass of people speaking in one voice. Davis also manipulates pace through frames’ detail or lack of it, especially in characters’ faces. A beautiful, character-driven, novel-like story of how people move on and even find beauty when it seems impossible to do either.
Davis likes three-row layouts. That's not unusual. It's the most common layout in contemporary graphic novels. Davis also likes to accent key moments through panel size. Big moments are literally bigger. How big varies: a full-width row, a full-width double row, a full page, a two-page spread. Size matters. When Johnny exhales from his weed pipe, the cloud fills a full-width panel, dwarfing the surrounding panels only half its size. We know Johnny's smoking is a problem, but not because Davis tells us (the page is almost wordless), and not even because she draws it, but because she uses layout as a way of making meaning ... if this is sounding melodramatic, it's not. In fact, Davis's most interesting narrative move is her eventual rejection of drama and narrative ... Time is revolutionized ... Davis shows us what matters.
The thing left out of most dystopian stories is that people still have to get through everyday life in a dystopia. The Hard Tomorrow’s vision of how that dystopia works (our own, ratcheted up a few more levels) sometimes feels politically iffy. There’s a subplot with a 'friendly' cop that goes exactly where it obviously will, and the book’s depiction of 'Antifa'-type protesters is almost risible, blaming them for the violence the police inflict on peaceful protesters. (As if they ever need any such excuse.) But Davis thankfully takes no shortcuts in delving into her characters, refusing to allow anyone to be less than what they may initially appear to be ... Davis is mainly known for experimental and vignette-based work...She brings that same sensibility of flexible reality to this story, freely altering a simple drawing style with pops of vivid detail emphasizing big moments.
Davis gently observes the foibles of modern social justice seekers in this vulnerable domestic drama ... elegant, romantic, and densely drawn linework ... Rather than glory in the couple’s flaws, from Hannah’s naiveté to Johnny’s idleness, or sand down these rough edges, Davis presents her protagonists’ messy humanity in a kind, plain light. Their miniature saga feels less like the arc of fiction and more like a few days lifted intact from real lives. But, then, Davis seems to argue that any life is rich and complicated enough to merit its own book—and she convinces the reader she is right.