Comics Features Reviews

Revisiting Trauma In “Day And Age: Year One”

day and age: year one

Day and Age: Year One – written and drawn by Andrew Oh – relives the pandemic through his eyes. It functions as an art diary. He began working on it in the summer of 2020. The comic features snippets of his life during that time. There’s a very slice-of-life narrative and quality to it, covering sporadic moments. Overall, it doesn’t have a straightforward storyline. As indicated by the title, Day and Age: Year One is in chronological order, documenting the incremental changes to daily life throughout the pandemic. Oh’s experience is a universal one – a time of unprecedented change and deep loneliness that leave lasting scars.

Luckily, not all the strips delve too deeply into the psychological aspect of that state of mind. One of my favorites is a little series called ‘The Cockroach Diaries’. It isn’t as serious as some of the others. But it does have that same frustration that comes from a lack of control. At the height of the pandemic, there was very little we could control. It makes sense for Oh to write about something he finds irritating on a small scale that reflects the larger issue.

This anthology is very interesting stylistically. Oh wrote it over the course of about a year. In that length of time, his drawing style changes significantly. His first strips are hand-drawn by pencil. They have a sketchy look to them. While the sketchiness doesn’t go away, the presentation changes over time, along with the font he uses for the words. The speech bubbles get easier to read as he switches to inking. This makes the art appear more well-defined and cleans up the linework. He uses black and white or grayscale for all his strips, with the only exception being the cover. This style works very well with the concept of this collection.

The main issue with Day and Age: Year One comes from something very small and unpredictable: the jokes. Oh writes about his life in isolation. While much of what he says is relatable, some of his strips just aren’t as funny without the context of the situation. This isn’t his fault. Sometimes, you have to be there to understand a joke. Other times, you need a piece of information not every person will necessarily have. There’s even a strip about this very situation called ‘Bad Advice’. However, this is a small flaw and the comic functions very well on the whole.

Oh’s collection has many humorous strips. But the ones that stand out the most are those that try to confront the psychological effects of the pandemic. In these pages, Oh grapples with isolation and the intense sense of loss that hit all of us during that time. He does a good job documenting the complex feelings that the pandemic caused. This results in a lot of contradictions. He struggles to go places, even to see his friends, but also needs company. Oh expresses the alienation of online dating, but can’t tear himself away from it. Things like this remind the reader that finding easy answers during the height of the pandemic was impossible. Who didn’t feel like the world was ending, or that life was standing still? It was a painful time, but Oh manages to capture both the horror and the humor of it.

Are you looking for a slice-of-life set during the pandemic? Want to the see both the humor and horror in the days of lockdowns and isolation? You can read Day and Age: Year One via Andrew Oh’s website. Tell us, did you feel that same haunting sense of loneliness and contradiction back then too? Drop a line on our Twitter and Instagram and we promise, we will lend an ear!

About the author

Layna Putterman