Guerilla Green opens with author and narrator Ophélie Damblé on the Paris Metro to Boulogne-Billancourt, surrounded by people on their phones who are slowly driving her crazy. She snaps, begins handing out seeds (and green advice) to those around her and makes a dramatic exit by quoting Green Guerilla icon Ron Finley, “Let’s plant some @#*%!” Just like that, you are in the headspace this book will occupy. It swings between history lessons on green guerillas around the world, indignation at the state of the world we are in today and actions you can take today to start changing your city. It is a call to action book that uses the graphic novel format to reach out to a broader audience and soften the grim reality it’s trying to bring attention to.
Damblé’s entry into the world of guerilla gardening started when she was approaching age 30 and, having spent a decade in public relations, decided it was time for a life change. She saw friends her age fleeing from the city to the countryside, but she wanted to stay and put in the work to make Paris more beautiful and livable. She shares her research on the notion of rebellious gardening beginning in the 17th century through to today with examples of people and groups around the world continuing this work. Over the next several chapters we get lessons on topics including how to clean up your city, civil disobedience for the greater good, how and where to garden, saving biodiversity and her hopes for the future.
While she does admit that some of these acts and works might seem pretty big, Damblé makes the argument that every movement and change has to start somewhere and it can start with one person. This book is her pitch for each of us to become that one person. Any one of us can start to make a positive change in our city and help the planet by doing a little digging. She’s giving you an outline on how to get started and at the end of the book there is even a list of both French and English resources to keep reading and a list of websites to check out to stay motivated. There are interstitial breaks after each chapter titled “Ophélie explains it all” with a real life photo of Ophélie and friends from that chapter. Ophélie then elaborates on some of the facts from that chapter and any of the details she feels could use more context. These were helpful sections and I could appreciate that they were set aside to give them more serious weight.
The art by Cookie Kalkair feels reminiscent of Noelle Stevenson’s work on Nimona and Lumberjanes (which was also published by BOOM! Box) and the art is the saving grace of this graphic novel. It’s lighthearted, whimsical, and helps with the rather uneven pacing of the storytelling. The earnestness of the message was undercut at times with some curmudgeonly jabs at younger readers and an unspecified rival’s book, as well as some ill-advised references to historic figures like Rosa Parks. The pacing also varies wildly throughout the book and reading feels stilted as such. While there are some pie-in-the-sky ambitions in Guerilla Green, the hope it exudes, that we can all make a difference, is undeniable. The militaristic mindset, some of the history lessons, and the nature of the topic makes this book better suited to high school teens and older readers. Younger readers may have trouble with context for some of the biggest planetary issues addressed. Big city dwellers will also have more familiarity with some of issues addressed, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be enjoyed by those with the luxury of a backyard.
Guerilla Green By Ophélie Damblé Art by Cookie Kalkair BOOM! Box, 2021 ISBN: 978-1684156634
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18) Creator Representation: French
Cici Armand has a huge secret, one which threatens her relationship with her mother. It is only through Cici bringing people together in her community that she will be able to solve family secrets and heal her relationship with her mother.
Cici’s Journal: Lost and Found opens as Cici bridges the gap between childhood and adolescence. Cici is a shy twelve-year-old girl who is more comfortable writing than speaking. It is nearing Christmas and she still holds on to her childhood belief in Santa Claus. She has a strained relationship with her mother and occasionally lies to avoid discipline. Cici uncovers her first mystery through her local friend Sandra. Sandra is her mother’s age and lives in Cici’s hometown. Sandra introduces her to the art of book binding that was passed down by Sandra’s father. Cici lands herself in a multi-part mystery that helps Sandra discover her father’s dying wish. When Sandra’s mystery is solved, Cici once again finds herself engaged in another puzzle. This time, she travels with her mother to a mysterious mansion that has more secrets than meets the eye. These secrets lead to shocking discoveries about Cici’s mother and reveals the reason behind their strained relationship.
Lost and Found, by author Joris Chamblain, is the sequel to 2017’s Cici’s Journal: The Adventures of a Writer-in-Training and is a coming of age story that reveals a mother and daughter’s crumbling relationship. The story is split into three separate chapters. Each chapter chips away at the family mysteries, revealing more character development and backstory. Chamblain uses realistic dialogue. Cici often argues with her mother, reflecting a realistic portrayal between a pre-teen and their parent. Cici faces numerous obstacles but is able to solve them with the help of her close friends Erica and Lena. Erica and Lena are well drawn and believable. Erica is an athlete with quick wit and Lena is an academic who can speak two languages. Chamblain’s writing is sincere and reflects emerging adolescence. Cici’s often says how she feels anxious, sometimes for unclear reasons.
The targeted audience will identify with this emotion and connect with Cici. What child hasn’t felt anxious when dealing with new situations? Illustrator Aurélie Neyret incorporates beautiful orange and red tones that add emotion to this coming of age tale. There are a combination of split panels and scrapbook entries. This is not confusing as the journal entries reveal information that drives the story. Cici also add her own commentary to the letters and scrapbook entries. Incorporated in the margins are cute illustrations that reflect Cici’s childish nature. She draws Christmas trees and cartoon versions of characters in the story. The story even incorporates recipes that will leave readers hungry to try at home. There are characters of different skin tones. This book is recommended for any library where mystery fiction and graphic novels are popular. Middle grade readers will relish in the mysteries and relatable issues such as loss and emerging young adulthood.
Cici’s Journal: Lost and Found By Joris Chamblain Art by Aurélie Neyret First Second, 2021 ISBN: 9781250763402
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12 Series ISBNs and Order Related media:
Author/illustrator Nicolas Petrimaux was born in Normandy, France, but was influenced early in life by American movies of the 1980s. This inspiration is transparent as the cover calls this book “Act One” and the book includes end credits. Gunning for Ramirez aims for a stylized version of the 80s, complete with referential jokes (a red leather jacket à la Michael Jackson in Thriller from the company Jack’s Sons worn by model Gwen Parker) and fake product advertisements between issues showcasing a love of the style of the time. While these details shine, the story itself is rather thin at times, relying on the mysterious question of who Ramirez really is to keep you reading along.
The story opens in an Arizona police interrogation room in 1987, with plenty of tropes thrown in to immediately place you there: hardboiled cops, lots of people smoking, big cars, and a fairly muted color scheme. It leans hard into the 80s action movie vibe Petrimaux is going for. The story revolves around Jacques Ramirez, an appliance repair man for Robotop who is universally beloved by his colleagues and also happens to be mute (which will come up repeatedly). One day he is spotted by two members of the largest drug cartel in Paso Del Rio who believe he’s the assassin who double-crossed their mob boss Hector Rodriguez. Jacques then crosses paths with a movie star, Chelsea Tyler, and her partner in crime/romance Dakota Smith, who are on the run from police after an “incident” on a movie set and several robberies after. The following 100-odd pages are full of car chases, questions of mistaken identity, bloody shoot outs and several big explosions with a few moments of levity to cut through some of the violence and language.
The story itself is not treading any new ground for a crime story with a mistaken identity twist. The most disappointing facet may be the two female characters, who are relegated to little more than scantily-clad-females-of-unrealistic-proportions, which does fit in with the aesthetic of many 80s action movies, but a 21st century reader expects that women characters will also have personalities.
Petrimaux’s art is textured and detailed, but not without faults. When you look at the cars, buildings and backgrounds, they’re impressive. But one of the biggest clues as to who the mysterious ‘Ramirez’ is involves a birthmark on his face that I personally had trouble catching initially because of the way color and shading are used throughout the book. It was supposed to be a major clue and I had to double back to see what I had missed. There were times this reminded me of Rob Guillory’s art in Chew, but with less whimsy.
The thing holding Gunning for Ramirez back is its inability to decide if it wants to crack jokes and be Deadpool style tongue-in-cheek or a straightforward, gritty Mexican crime drama like Robert Rodriguez’s Mexico Trilogy, which it lists as a direct influence.
Image Comics rated this M and it is best suited for the over-18 crowd. There is violence, gore, profanity, and some nudity and consensual sex. This book is also trying to evoke a certain type of cinematic feel and I do not know if there will much interest from those too young to have experienced those films. This is supposed to be volume one of a three-part series, but I have a hard time envisioning this holding a reader’s attention for three volumes. Originally published by Glenat Comics, Image has published this translation for English-speaking audiences. Glenat seems to have volume 2 (or Act 2) published, but we are still waiting for the English translation.
Gunning for Ramirez, vol. 1 By Nicolas Petrimaux Image, 2020 ISBN: 9781534316973 Publisher Age Rating: 18+
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+) Creator Representation: French
Young Leonardo depicts the life of artist and thinker Leonardo da Vinci during his childhood, prior to beginning his formal art study under Andrea del Verrocchio. The plot is episodic, moving through a series of short vignettes of experiences in the young artist’s life.
While it may be impossible to document da Vinci’s childhood years with total certainty, the episodes are based on information from his many notebooks. Quotations from the artist are interspersed throughout the book. Through the series of lighthearted comics, we see Leonardo’s beginnings in art, as well as his curiosity about the world around him which manifested in inventions, scientific discoveries, and constant observation. Other character traits are also highlighted, such as da Vinci’s habit of working on many projects at once, often abandoning one to start another, and his style of drawing subjects realistically at a time when most patrons of the arts expected to be shown in a more flattering light.
Young Leonardo does an excellent job showing the human side of the legendary artist. We see him deal with teasing and trouble fitting in from the neighborhood kids, at the same time dishing out some teasing of his own to his family members. His Nonna seems especially harried by Leonardo’s antics. While joking and playing like an ordinary child, Leonardo is forever engaged in lofty ambitions such as the pursuit of flight. Several of the vignettes show him testing a variety of wings he has constructed. Several comics show his other scholarly interests such as architecture and anatomy.
The full-color artworkconsists mainly of a traditional panel structure with between nine to twelve cells per page. Some pages lack borders around cells, and a few vignettes are wordless. Characters are drawn in a cartoonish style, only given four fingers per hand for example. However, astute readers will recognize the realism Augel brings to the book. Drawings from Leonardo da Vinci’s actual notebooks are woven into the story and appear throughout the book. Characters are included who match portraits sketched by da Vinci, and the entire da Vinci family is introduced in a pose reminiscent of The Last Supper. Most of the vignettes are comical with some tongue-in-cheek references along the way. One page sees Leonardo painting the borders around the cells, yet failing to finish them, a reference to the many projects he abandoned throughout his career.
Endmatter includes biographical information which illuminates the main text, as well as activities the reader can try in order to practice one of da Vinci’s experiments, a vocabulary quiz, and a matching game. A teaching guide follows which includes additional background information, common core connections, and ideas for using the book within a classroom setting. There is much young readers can learn from the life of Leonardo da Vinci, and Young Leonardo presents these lessons well. Leonardo is a character who shows perseverance and grit, While he does abandon some projects, he never stops inventing and trying new ideas. He continues his pursuit of human flight despite setbacks. Even when others mock or question him, he continues to seek knowledge and to create. This book is a great tool for classroom instruction, and an enjoyable title for readers interested in history.
Young Leonardo By William Augel Art by William Augel Big, an imprint of Humanoids, 2020 ISBN: 9781643376417
Title Details and Representation NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13) Creator Representation: French,
Mindy has her own apartment, a cat, a job, friends, and guys around her who seem interested in getting to know her better—and yet, there’s something wrong. She feels directionless in life and unwilling to follow up on any possible romance. When she steps on her bathroom scale, which she does frequently, she doesn’t like what she sees. She’s unhappy when she looks in the mirror, or when she thinks about how her body looks. At the grocery store one night, on a whim, she picks up a chocolate bar from a small local company called “Eat, and Love Yourself” that promises it will change her life.
The comic Eat, and Love Yourself addresses serious issues like body image and eating disorders, and so the book and this review need content warnings, as some may feel personally affected by the details or depictions they contain. Although the comic is not very graphic in its depiction, at different points in her life Mindy very clearly suffers from both anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, as well as other forms of disordered eating. She also experiences persistent self loathing and is shown encountering some verbal abuse from her parents.
When readers first meet Mindy, she is already suffering from eating disorders and most likely depression, and has been for most of her life. Deep down, she also believes her problems are her own fault. When she tries the first square of the mysterious chocolate bar, however, something strange happens: she is somehow transported back to her childhood, and watches one of her own memories play out before her. She can even see herself in the memory, though she can’t interact in any way. Through the course of the story, Mindy consumes the chocolate bar one square at a time, and with each bite she witnesses another moment of her past. Together, these moments tell a story of various negative experiences with parents, friends, authority figures, and peers, and the ways in which a young Mindy responded to these challenges.
Through these memories, Mindy gains more insight into herself and her relationship to eating. The experiences begin to affect her current life; as she fights with her best friend, visits and confronts her parents, and reconnects with an old crush. With the last square of chocolate, Mindy finally finds some peace, addressing her younger self with love and kindness.
Overall, I enjoyed this book, but found it a bit simple in its exploration of the themes and a bit lacking in emotional impact. Mindy does not spend much time unpacking any of the memories/flashbacks she experiences, and it seems like only a surface level delve into her emotions and mental health. Readers also spend very little time getting to know any other characters in the book, so they come off as somewhat underdeveloped. As a fat woman who has also struggled with body image in my life, I thought this book would feel more personal than it did. I also wasn’t sure the ending felt fully earned to me; it came off as too easy and too quick.
The art in the book was generally well done, and Mindy was actually drawn as fat, which I appreciated. Colors were vibrant and set the scene well. Every so often, I was a little confused by a sequence of wordless panels and what they were trying to convey, but on the whole, the art does a good job of telling the story and suggesting things without being too explicit about the more difficult topics.
Eat, and Love Yourself reminded me in ways of the recent Hulu original series Shrill, and fans of that show might enjoy this comic as well. Those who have struggled with eating disorders, body image, or a complex relationship with food might find something to appreciate here as well. Although I personally found it lacking in certain areas, the book still has value and will likely resonate for many people who can relate to Mindy. Due to the issues it addresses, and as Mindy and her friends are likely meant to be in their early 20s, the book is most appropriate for older teens or adults.
Eat, and Love Yourself By Sweeney Boo Art by Sweeney Boo, Joana Lafuente ISBN: 9781684155064 Boom! Box, 2020
Title Details and Representation NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult Creator Highlights: Canadian, French
Bob Marley in Comics, written by Gaet’s with art by Sophie Blitman, is the newest addition to NBM’s biographical graphic novel series. Similar to their previous publication, The Rolling Stones in Comics, Gaet’s details the life and death of the Jamaican musician and his impact in the world of music and world peace. Along with the singer’s biography, short comics depict important moments in Marley’s life, adding visuals to his story.
Born in Jamaica to an English army captain and a black woman; Robert Nesta Marley found music as an escape from the poor neighborhood he lived in. He found friendship with other musical youths, writing music and practicing different beats until his group was finally discovered. As the years go by, Marley finds success the world over with his rebellious, yet peaceful lyrics, his Rastafarian lifestyle, his messages of freedom, and his sexual exploits. For each moment of his life there is a short comic that accompanies it. In addition, readers are treated to a short introduction on the Rastafarian movement and the politics of Jamaica during the 1970s. The book ends with a listing of his studio albums and additional resources for the reader to explore.
This book is not just for Bob Marley fans, but for anyone who want to know more about the musician. Gaet’s and Blitman take readers into Jamaican society, from the slums in Kingston to the birth of reggae, and it’s impact Marley’s life. A variety of comic book artists (including Clement Baloup, Simon Leturgie, Domas, Sarah Williamson, and others) give life to these musical moments, adding visuals with their own comic techniques and color palates. Thanks to artist Efix, readers are introduced to the Rastafarian movement with a ganja smoking Rasta, who speaks directly to the audience while pencil drawn pictures of political figures and the Jamaican landscape are shown in the background. The attempted assassination of Marley, which is illustrated by Moh, is shown using alternating scenes between the attempt and a possible prophetic dream that one band member may have had. Towards the end, readers are given a chance to witness his state funeral, possession and all, with Gil’s soft colors and expansive scenes of mourners. All together the book celebrates Marley’s career, from his humble beginnings to his untimely death.
Bob Marley in Comics will be enjoyed by older music fans and those who have enjoyed the book series “in comics”, from the publishing company NBM Graphic Novels. The variety of artwork will intrigue readers and give them a glimpse into his life and career. It is a great addition to any public library’s graphic novel and biography collection.
Bob Marley in Comics By Gaet’s Art by Sophie Blitman ISBN: 9781681122496 NBM Graphic Novels, 2019
Browse for more like this title NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+) Character Traits: Multiracial
The very first page of Black Stars Above is a large, white box with small, cursive narrative text; so let’s start with the lettering by Hassan Ostmane-Elhaou. This comic is not only a slow-burn horror story by way of historical fiction, but it is also strongly dependent on characters’ journal entries providing the narration. Other textual effects include more standard lettering on spoken dialog, which uses carats to mark whether characters are speaking Michif or French, and white-on-black lettering inside of jagged speech bubbles for noises made by an alien creature. At the midway point of the story, the comic transitions into eight full pages of journal entries, with a couple of sketches included. Ostmane-Elhaou’s use of small, cursive font for journal entries will force readers to slow down as they scan through pages, and the effect this has on purely visual pages cannot be understated.
The second page of Black Stars Above is a wordless, four-panel sequence of some lynx traveling across snowy land; so let’s talk about more of the visual elements of this book. At the brightest of times, the Canadian wilderness is depicted as a gray wilderness with snow storms either taking over the horizon or directly flurrying the panels. A good deal of the comic takes place during dusk or nighttime, with lanterns and moonlight acting as dramatic light sources for the protagonist. Brad Simpson’s coloring is able to find a suitable range of hues for each situation, whether it’s the warm fireplace colors of a cabin, the cold blues and silvers of the snowy dark, or touches and waves of red as the story becomes more disturbing and violent. As mentioned before, the wordless segments of the story feel carefully paced to complement the dense use of text, making this a difficult comic to skim or skip through unless readers want to cheat themselves by “fast forwarding” to the horror reveals. Jenna Cha’s artwork and thoughtful paneling, which considers characters’ movements throughout each scene, deserves full consideration from beginning to end. Her talents include rendering a silhouette in a snowstorm, use of upside-down perspectives to visually suggest transitions that physically occur later, and eldritch creatures given a wintry spin that makes them simultaneously off-putting and kind of cute.
The third and fourth pages see the narrator and lynx meet; so let’s describe the actual story here. Lonnie Nadler’s script can be broken into three acts, each centering on Eulalie Dubois, a young woman on the Canadian frontier who yearns to escape her rural existence. In the first act, she struggles against the constricting expectations of her parents, including her First Nations mother and French father, who plan to marry her off to a nearby suitor. In the second act, Eulalie attempts to deliver a mysterious package on her own, with the hope of earning enough money to buy her independence. In the third act, the senses are assaulted as Eulalie travels to the eponymous black stars and discovers all kinds of freakiness and rituals. Images of cosmic horror that are briefly displayed or hinted at in the first couple of chapters receive thorough payoff in the latter half of the book, like a prestige horror film that plays with themes and setting but doesn’t forget to deliver the bloody goods. Far from schlock or grindhouse thrills, the journey of Black Stars Above could be described in Eulalie’s words as, “delirium walking hand in hand with awe.” People aren’t getting graphically murdered, or at all, but the book’s surreal imagery around madness, alien creatures, and disruption to the natural order is highly suggestive.
Where content warnings are concerned teens and older who know the word “cthulu” will be uniquely excited to follow this book’s immersive bread crumbs into madness. Animals are skinned and gutted, including the sight of an animal fetus dead in the womb. Creatures’ eyes drip black goo, and there is a brief scene of a topless woman. The literary tone that permeates the text, along with the less than accessible cursive font, means a good amount of focus will be required, but will also lead toward immense satisfaction and hope for a sequel in the same vein.
Black Stars Above By Lonnie Nadler Art by Jenna Cha ISBN: 9781939424532 Vault Comics, 2020 Publisher Age Rating: 12+
Browse for more like this title NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Adult (18+) Character Traits: First Nations or Indigenous Characters Multiracial, Creator Highlights: BIPOC Creator
Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World is a pitch perfect historical graphic novel for anyone who wants to learn about brazen rebel ladies throughout history. Pénélope Bagieu started with a list of 50 women whose stories she wanted to tell and narrowed it down to about 30 for the book. In interviews, Bagieu is quoted as saying that one of the hardest choices was deciding “whose stories I could tell a 200 times without getting bored of.” She especially wanted to showcase that not all brazen rebel ladies are western, white, educated, cisgender, straight women. At the end of the book, Bagieu does include the rest of her list of fabulous women for further reading.
Spanning nearly 2500 years of history, Brazen gives life to women such as Agnodice, one of the first women gynecologists who lived in 350 BCE Athens, to Sonita Alizadeh, an Afghanistan rapper born in 1996. Bagieu covers doctors, scientists, artists, explorers, entertainers: just about anyone from anywhere through time. Some of the women I knew, such as Nellie Bly, Josephine Baker, Hedy Lemarr, and Temple Gradin, are listed but others such as Nzinga, warrior queen of Ndongo and Matamba, Cheryl Bridges, athlete, and Giorgina Reid, lighthouse keeper, are entirely new to me. I found myself especially delighted Bagieu made sure Mae Jamison was included, the first black woman in space who happens to be a sci-fi and comics nerd.
Typically in anthologies or in music, the placement of the stories or songs are arranged by the artist just so, with a theme or an overarching story told via that placement. I could not find such a theme here and this is not to say that the work is haphazard—rather the thoughtfulness of the placement of the brazen rebel’s lives are listed such that you could read about a rebel from 2500 years ago and the next story is of a brazen rebel from the 18th century. The book does not need to be read in chronological order, but I will warn you that when you sit down with the book you’ll likely finish it one sitting, just as I did.
Bagieu wrote, illustrated, and colored the art marking her as a force to reckon with. In another interview, Bagieu selected a “very simple palette of four colors for each story, chosen carefully regarding the era, the country, the global feeling of the story.” In between each story is a two page highly detailed and colored spread of the brazen rebel in action, whether she is warrior queen or Temple Gradin and her cows.
Pénélope Bagieu is known for her attention to detail and the wit of her subjects. Here she gives these ladies all the attention and voice that they deserve. Each brazen rebel is finely drawn and brought to life, their stories may be told over a few pages but each story is in-depth enough to whet a history lover’s appetite. Brazen is listed as age appropriate for older teens, 16+, and up, but it could easily become the favorite of middle grades and up, especially as a reference book for further study. Highly recommended for any collection especially for history lists as well as lists for LGTBQ+ peoples.
Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World By Pénélope Bagieu Art by Pénélope Bagieu ISBN: 978-1626728691 1626728690 First Second, 2018 Publisher Age Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Browse for more like this title Character Traits: Japanese, Chinese, Black, Latinx, Middle Eastern, Lesbian, Bisexual, Queer, Pansexual, Trans
The final installment of DePins’ quirky trilogy about an unusual species of crab sees central crab characters Sunny, Boater, and Guitar involved in events larger than themselves—both in and out of the water. Some of the square (or marbled) crabs, a variety unique to France’s Gironde Estuary, have recently acquired the ability to change directions, while others remain unable to evolve and can move only in straight lines. After the marbled crabs stage a revolution against larger crabs and lobsters, their population grows tremendously. But a schism forms between the “rigid” crabs and the “turners,” and division increases when some crabs consider taking steps that even the turners think might be going too far.
Meanwhile, the human residents along the Gironde are facing difficulties of their own. A recent shipwreck and oil spill have threatened tourism, and a public relations campaign promises to clean up the area. Various tourists encountered in the prior volumes are seen again in this book, as is a documentary film crew whose movie about the marbled crabs may have exaggerated their reputation as a menace to the community. How will the crabs fare with the odds against them?
The artwork in this volume features a limited color palette creating a vintage feel. Scenes are colored according to location with underwater scenes in dark grays, reds, and greens, while light blues and yellows are used for scenes on the beach. Humans are drawn with long and angular bodies and severe facial features in most cases, though tourists are more rounded and jocular so as to be distinguished from the corporate and political types. While the story never clearly casts characters in good or evil roles, the illustrations often depict them as either heroic or sinister through the use of color, facial expression, and other cues: the lobsters have skull and cross-bone patterning on their backs, for example.
The complexity of this volume, and the series as a whole, makes it best suited for more sophisticated readers. There are numerous simultaneous plotlines to follow, and some of them are more mature in theme. The Revolution of the Crabs can easily be read in one sitting, but readers may need repeated readings to contemplate the meaning of each piece of the story. Questions abound concerning the impact of humanity upon nature, and the course nature takes on its own, along with the impact of decisions made by government authorities and the media. Although this comic looks simple, DePins’s messages are anything but. Readers who approach it with an open mind will find themselves with a great deal of thinking to do.
The March of the Crabs, Vol. 3: The Revolution of the Crabs 3 By Arthur DePins Art by Arthur DePins ISBN: 978-1-68415-165-3 Boom! Studios, 2018 Publisher Age Rating: Series Reading Order
Scene 1: A lone crab crawls against a black backdrop.
Scene 2: It is joined by several more crabs.
Scene 3-6: They crawl towards a naked, sleeping woman while her boyfriend sleeps next to her. They congregate closer and closer towards her left breast, ultimately surrounding it.
In astrology, the crab is associated with the sign of Cancer. We know exactly what’s going on.
This is just one example of the inspired creativity devised by author Vero Cazot and Montreal illustrator Julie Rocheleau to tell the wordless story of Betty, a woman who loses her left breast to cancer. A surprisingly zany take on life after a mastectomy, this survivor’s tale takes its queue from the screwball comedies and silent movies of early cinema, complete with interspersed title cards and sound effects bubbles.
When Betty wakes in the hospital and lifts her gown to see the stitched scar across her chest, she tears the room apart looking for her missing breast. She looks under the bed, through cabinet drawers, and inside the ventilation shaft as her wig flies off and on her bald head. The hospital keeps removed boobs in individual jars on a rotating conveyer belt, and when they find Betty’s breast with the pierced nipple they rush it to her in a frenzy. Betty is thrilled; her boyfriend, who fainted when he first saw the flatness of her chest, faints for a second time. It’s a scene that brings so many things to the surface: heartache over Betty’s initial panic, shock and humor at the hospital’s cold, industrial-like procedures—one can’t help think of the current war on women’s bodies when seeing all of those classified boobs—annoyance at the self-absorbed boyfriend, and, finally, fear for Betty and what’s to come.
As the story progresses, Betty becomes increasingly inadequate and incomplete in the eyes of her boyfriend and colleagues. She tries filling her bra with an apple, and then a costly synthetic boob. In one of the story’s more zany moments, she manages to steal the boob during a botched burglary at the shop where she’s trying it on. But it’s a short-lived success, and she eventually loses both her boyfriend and her job, where having “two boobs” is literally in her contract.
Betty continues to struggle with social expectations of perfection and femininity until she befriends a group of burlesque performers. They share their own imperfections with her: a prosthetic leg, a pacemaker scar, and, in a particularly humorous show-and-tell, strongman Nino’s tiny penis. They share a giggle over that one, and the experience marks a turning point in Betty’s life.
The fact that this story aligns itself with the zany and the madcap only made me more invested in Betty’s experience. It’s a bold move to address something as devastating as breast cancer with such camp—almost taboo—but it’s camp with heart, and it’s camp that has something to say. When Betty pulls a Gene Kelly and gleefully clicks her heels together after stealing the synthetic boob, you know she’s missing the point. She’s in denial and she’s going to have to face this painful fact eventually. At the same time, you want to save her from it. It’s effective camp, and it speaks to the craziness of embracing one’s supposed failings and eventually finding joy in a life you didn’t plan for. With sprawling, surreal artwork that seems to want to spill out from the confines of the page, Betty’s is a seminal story that shouldn’t be missed.
With a fair amount of nudity and sex, About Betty’s Boob is suggested for mature readers. Adult collections will benefit from the graphic novel’s inspiring tale of loss and self-acceptance, as well as its explorations on body image and chosen family.
About Betty’s Boob by Vero Cazot Art by Julie Rocheleau ISBN: 9781684151646 Archaia, 2018 Publisher Age Rating: Mature readers