When you turned 11, did you go to a fast food chain to order a Once Party meal for a chance to win a glimpse of one of three moments of your future for five minutes? The protagonists of Fantagraphics’ book Afternoon at McBurger’s Nuria, Pepa, and Dani did.
Originally published as Tarde en McBurger’s in 2020 by publisher Apa Apa, Afternoon at McBurger’s is a science-fiction graphic novella that follows three 11-year-old girls as they spend the day at McBurger’s and order their once-in-a-lifetime “meals.” Written and illustrated by Ana Galvañ and translated to English from Spanish by Jamie Richards, Afternoon at McBurger’s sweetly succinct 64 pages make for a wholly unique comic book experience that will surely take you by surprise.
Afternoon at McBurger’s carries the liminality of shows like The Twilight Zone and Black Mirror and the vicious youth of comic series Paper Girls for a refreshing and compelling story. Galvañ pens a non-linear narrative that weaves throughout the lives of the three girls, bending in ways familiar to time travel stories yet feeling entirely new. Galvañ then blends these sci-fi time travel tropes with the familiarity of adolescent struggle, the inevitability of time, and friendship.
The soft yet sharp minimalist art in Afternoon at McBurger’s makes the story that much more unique. Curved panel lines play with both the story and the sci-fi themes of time and space, giving the gutters just as important a role in fleshing it out. Galvañ also employs plentiful use of Diego Rivera-style rolling movement where not every moment is captured in its own panel. The multiple splash pages do the same by breathing surprising space into such a short story, with their hollowness adding to that feeling of liminal space.
Galvañ’s art is especially impressive when you realize that the only colors used in the entire book are various shades of red, yellow, and blue. The use of these primary colors in Afternoon at McBurger’s is stunning, combining blocky monotones with overlapping shades and textured fading to create an aesthetic both retro and futuristic.
I can’t quite get over how Afternoon at McBurger’s is so casually brilliant. While I’m writing this I’m still discovering new threads and potential meanings for both the color choices and story. That’s the genius of the book, how it keeps the reader guessing, keeping them almost in a state of relative unawareness much like an 11-year-old child would be. It’s one of those stories that leaves you slightly confused at its abruptness, but when re-read leaves you stunned at its simple complexity.
Despite the many layers that can be peeled back in Afternoon at McBurger’s, Galvañ doesn’t ask you to put on your detective hat to go figure out the meaning of every single panel and plot point. This isn’t some mysterious and convoluted story that tells you to analyze it with ravenous fervor to figure out the “true” meaning. Rather, it invites you to reflect, to experience, to feel.
Afternoon at McBurger’s conducts its narrative melody with humble grace and lets you bathe in a world of exquisite color for a unique futuristic story rooted in timeless truths. This work of Galvañ’s is not something to miss. It might even make you wish you could turn 11 again.
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