In the Future, We Are Dead

Eva Müller. Birdcage Bottom, $15 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-0-9826595-6-4
In this philosophical collection of nine melancholy vignettes, German artist Müller reflects on how death inevitably fills the thoughts of the living, from monks to punks. In a soft red, blue, and black palette, Müller’s heavily textured colored-pencil drawings tell brief, quiet stories: two estranged siblings reunite for their father’s funeral, a depressed woman talks with her elderly neighbor, Buddhist monks prepare for the yearslong process of self-mummification. What weaves the volume together is its tone of angstlust, a German term Müller defines as the process of a fear becoming “an exciting experience.” The stories also share a visual focus on details; each narrative feels like a surreal series of snapshots. In one story, a 20-something punk rocker holds four of her own teeth in the palm of her hand, a reminder of her body’s ability to decay. “Whether Punk was dead or not was being discussed.... With my four teeth, there was no need for discussion.... the dentist said they were: Definitely dead.” In another, the narrator wanders cemeteries, admiring the minutiae of hand-painted tombstones. “Death is always with me,” she says. “And somehow that’s ok.” This reflective graphic novel looks the Grim Reaper in the face—and sees that he isn’t an enemy, after all. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/19/2018
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