Reviewed by Sally Ingraham.
A 2018 summer interview in Paste Magazine with Kate Gavino put her new comic – Sanpaku – on my radar. When it turned up at Copacetic Comics I read it eagerly. As I had suspected, the intricate backgrounds of each page (inspired by origami paper) were a compelling detail which I thoroughly enjoyed.
The patterned backgrounds made me think of quilt squares, and as such they really serve to tie the book together. I don’t always like comics where each page is a single panel. I find that they often have a feeling of “and then”…”and then”…”and then”…which lacks a certain rhythm. In Kate Gavino’s Sanpaku the patterns become the rhythm which carries the story along – and as I said, in my mind’s eye I can see the whole “quilt” of the story spreading out and holding space.
The story itself follows Marcine, a young Filipino girl growing up in the States around her Catholic immigrent family and their friends. It is inspired by Kate Gavino’s own similar childhood in Houston, TX, but there isn’t a strong sense of place in the comic. The characters float amid the patterns. Marcine is dealing with strong emotions, floating in her own head as she learns to question the things that she’s been taught, and begins to form her own opinions.
Pop culture and sainthood, macrobiotic diets and shoplifting all have their mysterious parts to play as Marcine navigates a school year, the death of her Lola, and the ever-present curse of Sanpaku.