The Empress Cixtisis

Anne Simon, trans. from the French by Jenna Allen. Fantagraphics, $16.00 (80p) ISBN 978-1-68396-221-2
Simon returns to the bizarre fantasy world of The Song of Aglaia, and Barbarran is in crisis. The nefarious Empress of Tchitchinie, Cixtisis, has stolen the country’s men, and it’s up to Queen Aglaia to negotiate their return—or take action to bring them home—when the capital Suffragette City receives a visit from the Empress herself. Populated with French fry–shaped Amazonian women, a politically ideological royal advisor, and a hapless cook who is the last man left in the land, the humorous and dramatic narrative never quite takes the tongue from its cheek. Whimsical character designs and delicate, cross-hatched art with warm coloring conveys the settings and high emotions. Cixtisis is based on the real-life Empress Dowager Cixi of China, and in her characterization the art falters. Cixtisis is haughty and cruel (she enjoys enslaving and castrating men) and is portrayed with various perversions. A caricature of a monarch, she literally yells, “Off with their heads!” in one scene. The empress, her attendants, and her realm of Tchitchinie have a strong air of Orientalism, especially contrasted with the portrayals of the feminist ideals of Barbarran. While entertaining, the story’s digression into exotification detracts from the themes of empowerment, love, and difficult choices. (Aug.)
Reviewed on : 06/06/2019
Release date: 08/06/2019
Genre: Comics
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