“You’re disillusioned but with no regrets, you’ve made my coffee go cold”
Crema is a nice love story with ghosts and coffee, just like all the great romances of our time! It is written by Johnnie Christmas, drawn by Dante Luiz, lettered by Ryan Ferrier, edited by Atla Hrafney, and published by Dark Horse. Let’s have a look!
As with many stories, we have to indulge the silliness to get to the actual story, and in this case, we have Esme, a young woman who can see ghosts (one specific ghost, usually, but she’s not limited) when she drinks a lot of caffeine. There’s a half-hearted explanation for it, but it doesn’t really matter. Esme can see ghosts, and that’s the way it is. She works at a coffee shop in Brooklyn that’s owned by a Brazilian family that grows the beans, but it’s just been bought by a company that is, naturally, not a cozy family business and is represented by an obnoxious douche-bro. Esme goes to a mandatory celebration party for the buy-out, and she meets Yara, whose family had owned the coffee shop. She and Yara fall hard for each other, and Yara tells her the story of their farm and why the beans are so good. It involves her ancestors, who had a tragic love story – the man went away to make his fortune and never came back, and his wife never got over it. Coincidentally, Esme sees a ghost in the cellar of the coffee shop who says he needs to get back to his lost love … a woman with the same name as Yara’s ancestor. Well, dang. Then the coffee shop burns down. Oh, dear. Yara needs to go back to Brazil, and she invites Esme to come, and that’s where the real adventure begins!
Christmas tells two love stories in this, the one between Esme and Yara and the one between Joana and Abelardo, Yara’s great-great-grandparents. As this is a charming romance and not a completely dark and bitter one, the people in love triumph, but it’s still a nice little mystery, as the ghost Esme helps get back to his lost love has some secrets of his own, and the douche-bro from the company that bought Yara’s coffee shop (and wants to buy her farm) isn’t exactly who he seems, either. It’s not a shocking kind of plot, as we can feel where it’s going, but it’s still charming. Christmas gives us a nice romance between Esme and Yara – they have some issues, but he gives them a solid foundation, so when Esme “comes out” to Yara about her abilities and Yara thinks she’s crazy, we know that their rift won’t last because Christmas has done a good job showing how meant for each other they are. The issues in the relationship come, really, from outside stressors – Yara is afraid of losing her farm – so while it’s dramatic, it’s also clear that once they calm down, they’ll figure out a way to make it work. In love stories, the writer often comes up with annoying ways to keep the lovers apart, but Christmas doesn’t. Esme and Yara don’t have a completely serene affair, but it’s also clear they want to be together and will be. The plot is more concerned with how their love can save both of them and Yara’s farm, and isn’t concerned with whether they’re going to end up together. Which is nice.
Luiz has a kind of Jill Thompson/Eric Zawadzki vibe going on, and his art is a very nice part of the book. Esme is the slightest bit frumpy, which is a nice contrast to Yara’s glamor (she’s a model). Luiz does a nice job dressing them, too, to match their personalities – Esme’s clothing is less fashionable than Yara’s, which we’d expect. When the book shifts to Brazil, Luiz really shines (he’s Brazilian), as he gives us a beautiful town full of interesting colonial architecture (there are some photographs in the back of the book of architecture found in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais) and he does a wonderful job with the ghosts and their belle époque clothing. We get a very good sense of Brazilian life through the art, and in many plot-driven stories, the action could be anywhere, so the sense of place in this is nicely done. Christmas gives Luiz the room to show the rhythms of the town in which Yara lives, and we can see why Yara loves it so much and wants to share it with Esme. Luiz does nice work with some of the creepy parts of the book, but he really shines with the mundane stuff, making it beautiful and charming.
Crema is a good romance, with some fun supernatural elements thrown in to give it some weirdness. I always like reading about cultures I’m unfamiliar with, so setting a book in rural Brazil was interesting for me. I don’t love the book, but I do like it, and there’s nothing wrong with that!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆