Webcomic Weekly: Revisiting An Old Classic With ‘TJ & Amal’

by Richard Bruton

Webcomic Weekly – every week a new online comic for your enjoyment. Sometimes a huge saga, sometimes a mere few pages, sometimes a big name, sometimes completely new to you (and me). And sometimes an old, long-finished webcomic that deserves more attention.

Today, it’s one that ended way back in 2014, The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal. But it’s still there for your enjoyment online and well worth a read – a wonderful LGBTQ road movie comic.

Oh, and before we begin, bits of this webcomic are a little NSFW.

TJ and Amal was published online between 2009 and 2014, with author EK Weaver telling an epic LGBTQ road trip romance that all begins one fateful day…

In the span of a single day, Amal calls off his arranged marriage, comes out to his conservative parents, promptly gets disowned, goes on a bender… and wakes up the next morning to find TJ, a lanky, dreadlocked vagrant, frying eggs and singing Paul Simon in his kitchen.

Pretty much like this…

TJ tells Amal that they’ve made a drunken pact to drive from Berkeley to Providence, after TJ found out that Amal had promised his sister he’d be there for her graduation from Brown University.

But are things really that simple? Turns out that TJ has his own reasons for the trip.

Anyway, what you get is a 3,500-mile journey with Amal driving and TJ paying the way – “...but a 3,500-mile journey leaves plenty of time for things to get complicated.”

Okay, that’s the setup, but in 500 pages of webcomic, or the various print collections, Weaver has lots of time to get into the whys and the wherefores.

And before you start thinking how will you ever get the time to read 500 pages of webcomic, let me tell you that it absolutely doesn’t feel like it at all, the whole thing reads so wonderfully well that the pages simply fly by and before you know it you’re there at the final page, partly wishing there was more, partly happen that it ends when and where and how it does.

However, absolutely no spoilers here, this is one that I want you to get the very best from.

Right from the start, you’re going to love the way that Weaver lets the strip breathe, giving it the time to develop, putting in lots of silent moments of contemplation on the journey. It takes some 84 pages before we get to Amal spilling to TJ what he was doing, why he was there at the start, and the key thing for me was that it wasn’t too long, the flow of the comic just took me along with it, fine, fine pacing, laying it all out there, taking as much time as it really needs. It’s a long roadtrip, and Weaver gets it just right.

Along the way, the pair get to know each other better, questions and answers flying between the two, and both of them let their secrets out slowly. There’s a simmering sexuality in here, but it’s played out really slowly, a naturalistic relationship developing between the pair as they drive on and on, complete with a slow, gentle emotion, full of sadness, flirting, comedy and more besides and we’re a full 15 chapters in before TJ and Amal finally get it together, and by that time you’re practically there with the pair, Weaver’s done such a good job of putting her readers right inside her character’s heads.

Weaver’s art is a great plus for the comic, and so easy on the eye. Her characters just look right. Damn good job as well, since most of the comic you’re just sharing a car with the pair, and facetime is all you get artwise. But again, just as with the pacing, it flows, so well.

And then there’s the thing she does with landscapes as well…

Wow. Seriously wow.

All in all, TJ and Amal just had me from a few pages in, just as it will for you, a beautifully done example of two complicated men sharing their lives, a touching travelogue, a great LGBTQ webcomic.

You can read TJ & Amal here, support EK Weaver on Patreon, find Weaver on Twitter, and buy the books in print at Iron Circus.

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