Triumphing Through Failure: Review of Comic ‘smallness’

It’s been a little over a year since Ashanti Fortson created and debuted their sci-fi journey comic smallness at SPX. The one-shot comic celebrated its one-year anniversary back in September and it is a comic that still holds much weight a year later. Yes, Fortson has been busy creating art by way of their webcomic Galanthus, providing art for blessed resources and being involved with two of this year’s most creative comic anthologies, Power & Magic and Wayward Friends. smallness, the sci-fi tinged journey that sets a course through self-doubt and how to pace oneself, was on my mind. Notably, it was worth rereading and reviewing as this year and this decade is soon coming to an end.

The synopsis of smallness reveals that “After she makes a mistake that sends her dreams crashing down around her, a young engineer struggles to cope with the enormity of her failure.” The comic opens to one Akma making a galactic call to her father before leaving on a trip. Her parents are so proud: she’s their child who has received a prestigious position most would only dream of–she’s making them proud and following her dreams. Everyone will know, everyone will hear of their dear Akma’s grand success. The problem? Our girl has been fired from the very job that she’s worked so hard and long for and now she’s just trying to navigate how to live with the big L that she feels has been stamped on her forehead.


Fortson’s art is everything dreamy and out of sight while still making such scenes like making a phone call or having fun at a gathering at the beach still feel like you could insert yourself in. There is a depth to the fantastic colors that fill the universe–while blasting away in space and on different planetsides. The color schemes that switch up from warm to cool–set the tone of certain scenes. Cracking jokes with friends near the waves look intimate and lowkey until it is not, and the panels that show the dark waters that our protagonist retreats near show the range of her inner turmoil.

Later the bright spot that is the place that she finds herself in for a meal chases away the gloom and doom that had been wrapped around her like a shawl. It’s a treat to see the progression of the places she goes and how color enhances the narrative every step of the way, truly. Comics are very much a visual medium, and this one does justice to the story standing alone with just the art.

There’s a lot to take away from smallness: one being perhaps the most important theme? It is being kind, it is showing kindness to yourself. I felt that I could place myself in Akma’s shoes, universally most readers could. What do you do when you’ve made the biggest mistake? How do you find peace? How do you live with it?

Akma can very much be an avatar when readers can keep running from failure and defeat before they face it head-on. Reading Ashanti Fortson’s work here reveal that it is a tender telling of someone feeling absolutely small and unworthy in the world and looking to avoid confronting it until they can’t anymore. It is a slow-paced journey of learning to be gentle with oneself and learning to take that deep breath you’ve needed all along. Appropriate for all ages, this comic is part discovery, part journey, part exploration through emotional states and part tender lesson which is just what I needed.


The beauty of smallness for me resulted in me sitting back and taking a second look at a recent situation that I felt powerless about, where I felt that I hadn’t measured up enough for. There are failures in life, some by our own hands, some by others that we feel impacted by greatly. At times, there are mistakes that snowball into anxiety creating messes that we get entangled with, that even we. too, label as our own failures.

Perhaps the biggest triumph we can have is to rise out of failure and finding a piece of driftwood in the ocean of regret and make our way to shore. Keeping in mind that the world, the universe is a huge place and our mistakes cannot solely define us, smallness is a blessed reminder that being small is sometimes a good thing. Taking a step back to view yourself in the grand scheme of things can be the prescription you need to find your peace. I needed to relearn this lesson this week, this close to the end of the year and this close to the beginning of a new decade.

9.6 Home Cooked Meals By Kind Old Ladies Out of 10

Words & Art: Ashanti Fortson/@ashantifortson on Twitter / Edited by Claire Napier/ @illusClaire on Twitter

Purchase a digital copy of Smallness here on Fortson’s page here.

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