The Plague

laid waste by Julia Gfrörer. Fantagraphics, 2016. 9781606999714.

laid-wasteGfrörer’s inks are amazing. It looks like she uses a pen — there isn’t much variation to the thickness of her lines — but she’s able to cross them to create different textures which give only a sense of the darkness of the story and the deep despair of its characters. I’ve returned to this book again and again to look at its shadows.

When she was a young girl in a medieval town, Agnès was mistakenly buried. Her older sister rescued her from her grave, though, and Agnès grew up. Now her town is being ravaged by the plague. It’s a world of funeral pyres, mass graves, and dogs eating body parts. Nothing matters. Agnès finds a moment of pleasure with a man whose wife is dying, but only after he stops trying to reassure her and agrees that it’s the end of the world. Will St. Catherine answer her prayers for a new husband and more children, or for death?

I know it sounds like a bummer, but Gfrörer ends it on a hopeful note (or not, depending on your interpretation — and there’s a lot of room here for interpretation).

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