What is the best vessel for hope? Is it a time capsule with letters to the future? Is it a wedding dress, a sapling, a promise, a book? These are all options—ways of thinking ahead to what the future holds—but hope ultimately takes the form of a child. This is the message in The Hard Tomorrow written and illustrated by Eleanor Davis.

The Hard Tomorrow is set in a future not far from today. In a state of political unrest, people take stands on the far right or left, with a shared paranoia of the government’s abuse of power. The main character, Hannah, spends her days as a home-health worker, her evenings as an activist, and her nights as a wife hoping to become a mother. She and her husband, Johnny, have been trying to get pregnant for several months, but circumstances aren’t ideal, living in a camper together and arguing about when their house will get built. Each day brings its own challenges for Hannah—convincing a hospice patient to stay hydrated, making the right type of protest sign, getting out of a ticket, making forward progress on the house, and so on. But in the midst of these challenges are moments of respite, when the hospice patient agrees to drink, when the protesters are heard, when the cop lets her go with a few parting jokes, when the house frame goes up. Ultimately, Hannah believes that despite the dysfunction in the world, there is enough hope to bring a child into it.

This snapshot of a couple’s lives as they navigate their relationship and their desire to become parents is incredibly timely. Davis spends time on each character entering the story, showing us fears that are all too familiar. What if Facebook has been spying on me? What if my freedom of speech is taken away? What if I can never have a baby? Her world is only a step away from ours in the US, and already in sync with some countries already experiencing police states. Her characters are identifiable—friends bartering weed and planning gardens or girls singing pop anthems with the windows rolled down when they’re not fighting the system or struggling to get by. The comic itself is almost an anthem.

Davis’s black and white, flowing art style captures the heightened emotions as they build in the book. Tension builds as the protests become more dangerous, and Davis relies on the images to carry sound. Without text, you can hear the yelling crowd dwindling to a hush as police forces arrive, then the chaos that erupts as people begin fleeing and individuals are singled out and arrested. The final close up frames of Hannah’s baby are an embodiment of hope—all of the previous chaos draws still and hushes. There will be time for fighting the system later; all that matters is that this child has their whole future ahead.

This book does not appear to be rated, though the target audience is likely young adults and older. I’d like to think that younger readers won’t have the cynicism necessary to understand the book and its relevance. There is nudity, sex, and swearing, though none are overly explicit. Readers who are socially conscious and interested in realist comics would enjoy this book, and would enjoy Drawn & Quarterly as a press, in general. This comic is appearing on many Best of 2019 Comic lists, and for that alone, it may merit a place your collection. If you would like to build out more realism comics, this would also be a good purchase.

The Hard Tomorrow
By Eleanor Davis
ISBN: 9781770463738
Drawn & Quarterly, 2019
NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Adult (18+)

  • Joy

    Past Reviewer

    Joy is an MLS student at Emporia State University. She has an MA in Rhetoric and Composition from the University of Kansas and has spent most of her career facilitating instruction--teaching college composition, tutoring at college writing centers, and training software customers. When she's not freelance copy editing or wrapped up in a book, she's likely playing with her pitbull, Nina Simone, drinking craft beer, or volunteering at an equine therapy program. She has a weakness for lists and spreadsheets, and she'd love to swap reading stats with you.

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