French creator Bastien Vives is a prolific creator, with over twenty graphic works to his name. The Butchery was originally published in French in 2008. Over a decade later, The Butchery is finally getting its English-language release through Fantagraphics. Told in a series of minimalist strips, The Butchery is a delicate rumination on the emotional moments that make a romantic relationship. Moments like brushing teeth together, going out to eat, and arguing in bed. The type of moments that emphasize the need of most people to experience emotional connection.
At less than 100 pages, The Butchery is a minimalist work in every way. Vives’ artwork appears to be entirely hand-drawn with limited colors, dialogue is sparse, and our characters remain anonymous throughout. Though this style of minimalism does serve a purpose to Vives’ work, perhaps to emphasize the universality of the scenes and emotions expressed, the result is underwhelming. Vives’ attempts to show readers brief, intimate moments between two people—a man and a woman. None of the figures appearing in the book are given any particular characteristics. Instead, these figures are meant to represent experiences that, theoretically, most readers in male/female relationships can relate to. This, however, presents the issue. Vives’ figures transcend characterization. Vives instead focuses on emotional impact. However, the lack of characterization and personalization makes the work difficult to connect to on an emotional level.
Vives’ artwork is similarly underwhelming. Once again, his figures do not have much definition. In fact, in several strips, figures are given little to no physical features at all. Backgrounds are rarely used, in an effort to instead highlight experiences, rather than settings. Though this was clearly intentional on Vives’ part, The Butchery simply does not work as a collective piece. Rather than “minimalist,” it feels empty. Rather than “complex,” it feels restrained.
Librarians will likely struggle to find an audience for The Butchery. The book is likely too esoteric for most fans of graphic literature and would, perhaps, serve best as a coffee table book, rather than a collection material. There are plenty of graphic novels that will appeal to patrons interested in titles that ruminate on lived experiences in love; titles like Blue is the Warmest Color by Jul Maroh and Blankets by Craig Thompson may be better options for readers. Ultimately, The Butchery is a title that librarians can feel comfortable passing on.
By Bastien Vivès
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)