Katie O’Neill’s Aquicorn Cove touches the little kid in my soul and makes me believe in a softer world.  It’s a wonderful piece of work that can stand on its own because of the strong writing and art. On the surface, it’s a slice-of-life fantasy story about ocean unicorns — Aquicorns — and farming life.

In another aspect, this story is a call to action. In this ninety-page work, O’Neill crafts a strong emotional appeal for the importance of preserving coral reefs. As the story tell us, the coral reefs in our oceans provide protection and food for the sea creatures relying on them.

Even if you’re not interested in the political context, Aquicorn Cove is still a story about overcoming the grief of losing a parent — one that speaks to people of all ages. The main character Lana is dealing with the death of her mother. She and her father cope with the tragedy by coming home to her mom’s beloved village. The story reminds us that while the initial loss of someone you care about is overwhelming, the pain does scar over as you keep trying to live your life.

Aquicorn Cove Makes Farming Life Dreamy

Katie O’Neill’s writing for Aquicorn Cove takes a slow-burn approach. You gradually learn about the lives of the farming people and the encroachment of factories. As the story continues, it also delves deeper into the ocean’s unique creatures and how plastic erodes ocean life.

By showing empathy for both the human and ocean sides of the conservation debate, the story helps us understand why there needs to be a middle ground. The humans don’t need to destroy the sea creatures to survive, but can rather find a respectful balance that solves both their problems. This makes for an uplifting story, where the reader feels like even when they haven’t done their best, there is still always chance to become better. This choice means people can change and make the world better if they try to remain mindful.

Aquicorn Cove - Page 1
Oni Press, 2018

The one hitch to the narrative is that the conclusion comes too abruptly. For the most part, the story builds steadily, but the wrap-up only spans a single conversation. I would have liked to have seen more than just the one conversation so that all the nuances of the story could be covered.

Ultimately, Aquicorn Cove’s plot hinges on dealing with conflicting views. It shows us that while you don’t want to come off as too heavy-handed, you also need to take a stand for your argument. I appreciated that the author handled the conflict by framing the poor actions on the human side as stubbornness, rather than inherent evil.

Aquicorn Cove - Page 2
Oni Press, 2018

The Art Is Like A Sip Of Green Tea After A Hard Day

In all honesty, I have zero complaints about the art and layout in Aquicorn Cove — the both perfectly fit the tone. The colors flow together, the characters’ movements feel life-like, and the animals look adorable. You’ll find that the art isn’t too busy and it doesn’t distract from the writing. If you’re into a cute aesthetic, these illustrations are right up your alley.

If I’m being honest, I want an Aquicorn plushie for a companion at night. Above all, the art manages to convey the tone of the narrative and ties the story together with its sweet style.

Why Will Aquicorn Cove Appeal To You And Your Tyke?

I appreciate how polished Aquicorn Cove is as a graphic novel. There’s only ever one moment of disjointed storytelling, a feat which shows the strength of Katie O’Neill’s artwork and writing. The rest feels clean and clear to the reader.

I wouldn’t call Aquicorn Cove a tale you’ve never seen before, but I’m confident in saying that you’ve never seen this story written with these characters. Along with the neat writing and art, there are POCs and LGBTQ+ characters that will warm your heart. The representation is done in an understated, yet still visible way.

I’d be confident in offering Aquicorn Cove to my future kid and I’d read it again when I’m feeling down.

Aquicorn Cove by Katie O'Neill
Gentle Farming Aesthetic Strong Representation and IntersectionalityStrong Set-Up for Future Works
Abrupt Conflict Resolution Slow-Burn Might Not Appeal to Some
95%Sea Unicorn