Antananarivo, Madagascar is our destination in this episode of Lyfeblerd. Handrava tells the tale of Voanio and Papango’s lives in this Tapas slice-of-life webcomic.
Handrava by Rado R.
You might be surprised to know that there are so many African comic books out there. Yet in my opinion, very few of them are distinctly African. Most feel like Western tales told with an African veneer.
This is in no way a bad thing, but it is tiring to see that they’re the ones to keep talking about how African they are. It’s like a joke you need to explain. So long as your audience has the right context, it will be funny. Similarly, if it truly is African, we will see culture, diversity and pride without you having to remind us at every opportunity.
That’s where Handrava comes in. It’s a slice-of-life webcomic published on Tapas. The tale is set in Madagascar and created by Rado R. For all you lore fiends out there, Handrava means ‘to destroy.’
The Story of Handrava
Handrava is the story about a young woman named Voanio, her friends and their life in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar.
She works during the day in the market and at night pulling a cart, whether as a mode of transportation for her friends or for hauling her client’s goods. A hard worker, she’s often accompanied by her cousin and probably best friend, Papango. The two are virtually inseparable but very different.
Voanio is a bit naive; big and strong with a soft heart. Papango is charismatic, street smart, a pop culture fan and tomboy. Together they have adventures that become increasingly wilder and dangerous, spreading across multiple genres.
The Webtoon began its publishing run in 2017 and is still ongoing, but Rado has a bit of an erratic schedule. Handrava went on hiatus after the close of chapter 2, and returned in 2022 for the third but to my knowledge, there has been no new update since June.
One can only assume that Rado will be back with new issues at some point in the future, but the story leading up to chapter three was great and didn’t end on a cliffhanger.
Plus & Minus
Here’s the bit where I talk about the good, the bad and the ugly about the books on the show. I’ll try not to be too biased.
Handrava is a breath of fresh air, starting off light and free, like a gentle breeze. The main characters and some of their counterparts are all charming, with their development slow but steady. Even when things do eventually pick up, it doesn’t feel rushed or hurried. Several years ago there was a politician running for president in Nigeria that had a campaign slogan that read something like “A breath of fresh air.” I believe that was Goodluck Jonathan. While I understood what his team was going for, it didn’t quite make sense to me. After reading Handrava I now know the feeling they were trying to evoke.
The art is great, with its thick pencil lines and bright colours. It gives the impression that each issue was done by hand and not digitally. Character design is also fun and interesting. I particularly love Voanio’s outfit as it is very familiar, simple, and surprisingly utilitarian.
Handrava starts off as a slice-of-life tale that gradually shifts genres as it goes along. There are lots of moments that will catch you by surprise and the dialogue feels authentic. There are even words and exclamations that sound familiar to my West African ears.
My biggest gripe with Handrava is the change in the art style for chapter three. While it’s a lot more grunge than the others, the line art lacks a lot of detail, while the colouring looks like splotches of ink dabbed here and there. Unlike the previous chapters where we could see the evolution of Rado’s craft, chapter three’s art lacks the energy and life we’ve gotten used to. I hope this is just a temporary phase and not a harbinger of doom for the beautiful comic book series.
If you like order in your life, then prepare to be disappointed. Handrava doesn’t have a consistent publishing schedule, which means that you never really know when the next issue will be released until that notification pops off on Tapas. Rado has admitted to the desire to create a buffer for the series to enable him to post more consistently but it seems we may have to wait a while longer for this to happen. Fingers crossed that it’ll be soon.
Unlike many of the other books I’ve covered so far on Lyfeblerd, I found Handrava on my own. From the moment I glimpsed the art I couldn’t stop thinking about it until I read it. And then I had to keep reading until I finished it.
It gives me pride as an African to see comic books of such quality, uniqueness and diversity coming from the continent. Especially when it’s the creator’s first official title that I know of. Through numerous tid-bits I’ve become intrigued by life in Madagascar and love the way Rado keeps his fans informed and engaged (when he isn’t on hiatus).
Handrava is one of my biggest surprises this year and I hope to find more gems like this in the future. Mind you, the less you know about Handrava going in, the better. That’s how I enjoyed it and I hope I haven’t spoiled it in any way for those of you that decide to pick it up. You can read it for free on Tapas here.
If you like Handrava, then pick up some more slice-of-life in Solanin, which I covered in episode one. Another good one is Wolf Children: Ame & Yuki, a manga and light novel based on the anime movie, Wolf Children. The light novel was written by Mamoru Hosoda, while Yū joined him to illustrate the manga.
- Solanin – https://amzn.to/3F2Jsm6
- Wolf Children: Ame & Yuki (Hardcover) – https://amzn.to/3eInytT
If you aren’t a fan of slice-of-life and prefer hard hitting mystical action, then you have to read Comic Republic’s Avonome, created by Stanley Obende and written by Mr. Xavier Ighorodje. If high tech superheroes are more your speed, read the award-winning series E.X.O. – The Legend of Wale Williams, created by Roye Okupe and Illustrated by Sunkanmi Akinboye and Raphael Kazeem.
- Avonome – http://thecomicrepublic.com/2020/Avonome.html
- E.X.O. – The Legend of Wale Williams – https://amzn.to/3SkGvAu
Purchasing any of the books we recommend on the show via the links in our show notes will go a long way in keeping the lights on. Thanks in advance.
I hope you enjoyed this episode of Lyfeblerd. If you did, please subscribe and review on iTunes or anywhere else you get your podcasts. The theme song is Dreams by Rewayde.
Don’t forget to support your local comic book scene and keep reading the things you love. See you in the next one.