One of the beautiful things about comics is the power they possess in allowing us to explore culture and history that not only gives life to new experiences and feelings, but immerses the reader in them. Certainly, that's something all fiction is capable of, but comics adds a clear vision and depth to the journey, and that is especially true in The Scent of May Rain. Written by Rae Epstein and Mark O. Stack with art by Kaylee Rowena, the comic is an exquisite exploration of love, family, tradition, religion, sexuality, and humanity that offers a unique and thought-provoking look at the human experience—as lived by a character who's not at all human.
The Scent of May Rain spans a century of time, beginning in the 1920s when a man creates a golem—a concept from Jewish folklore of an animated anthropomorphic being, usually created from clay, to protect the Jewish people—meant to serve as a surrogate mother and companion for his family. Esther, the golem, starts her life naive and wide-eyed, but soon experiences the world in all its complexity, as well as its cruelties, though she is guided not by her experiences but by the purpose her creator gave her when he forming her from the clay.
As time passes, the reader sees Esther experience a variety of things, even becoming a bona fide superhero—one who uses compassion and patience called Amazon—but she continues to serve her predetermined role. It's something that creates a bit of a problem when that role as mother ends and she's given a new purpose, though still not one of her own choosing.
I won't delve too much more into the details of this story. The turns of the narrative are ones that should be experienced in the way Esther experiences the world, with fresh eyes. That's because the story is beautifully and thoughtfully written from start to finish. There are clear examinations of what it means to be a woman, what it means to love, and what it means to want in this book, but Stack and Epstein don't preach against outdated views of femininity and sexuality so much as they illustrate in an honest fashion how damaging sexism and bigotry really are. On every page, the story feels rich and genuine and, while there's definitely a sense of naivete, there's never dishonesty. On top of all that, the comic brilliantly infuses a great deal of Jewish history and culture, making it accessible to readers of every culture and faith—a reminder that the desire to live as one's true self and have an authentic purpose is universal.
All of it is tied together with Rowena's absolutely lovely art. Like Esther's clay form, the art here has a beautiful, malleable quality to it, with colors that offer a rich warmth to each page. It works very well to underscore the story's themes, specifically the warmth found in Esther's characterization.
The Scent of May Rain is not perfect, but its real fault is that you want more of the story after its final page. Esther is such a beautiful and compelling character that you can’t help but desire more of her experiences—especially those surrounding her involvement in World War 2 and a fateful meeting with War Nurse that comes full circle in the comics' conclusion. Setting that aside, the The Scent of May Rain is undeniably thought-provoking, insightful, and lovely; it is a comic that asks many questions and reminds readers that their answers may be found within is, and that what is within us is beautiful.
The Scent of May Rain may be purchased directly from Weekend Warrior Comics at this link.
Published by Weekend Warrior Comics
On June 17, 2020
Written by Rae Epstein and Mark O. Stack
Art by Kaylee Rowena
Letters by Cardinal Rae
Disclosure: ComicBook is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of ViacomCBS.