cover image The Trojan Women: A Comic

The Trojan Women: A Comic

Rosanna Bruno and Anne Carson. New Directions, $19.95 (80p) ISBN 978-0-811-23079-7

Set in post-war Troy, this wrenching comics-poetry update of Euripides’ tragic play by MacArthur fellow poet Carson (Float) and artist Bruno (The Slanted Life of Emily Dickinson) embodies feminine narratives with wry lyricism. Bruno’s black-and-white illustrations literalize poetic metaphors—Troy is “just a big old hotel/ luxurious, damp and full of spies”; Athene is a “pair of overalls, carrying an owl mask in one hand”—to whimsical effect. Yet the cleverness and agility of this graphic work amplify its tragedies: the exiting Greek army takes Trojan women as slaves, and Hekabe is anthropomorphized as an abject sled dog “of filth and wrath” who has witnessed the deaths of most of her children. Even the infamous Helen, a shape-shifter who appears as a silver fox and a mirror, must defend her life to her husband, the king Menelaos, after Hekabe wants her “sentenced to death out of her own mouth” for her apparent complicity in the downfall of Troy. Herald Talthybius, a hulking raven, outlines the prize for perfect feminine obedience: “Be nice, keep quiet, resign yourself/ you’ll still be able to bury the corpse of your child.” Accompanied by a chorus of cows and dogs, Hekabe mourns the death of a final heir (drawn as a sapling) and says, “We can’t go on/ we go on.” Such is the story of war and genocide throughout history, and in Carson and Bruno’s expert hands, it strikes as powerfully contemporary. (May)