cover image Blackbird Days

Blackbird Days

Manuele Fior, trans. from the Italian by Jamie Richards. Fantagraphics, $24.99 (88p) ISBN 978-1-68396-083-6

Eisner-nominated Italian cartoonist Fior (5,000 km per Second) delivers elegant short portraits of alienated Europeans, which are notable for their spectacular use of color. An Italian father loses his young son in a huge park in Berlin and frantically searches for him, while simultaneously praising and demonizing German culture. Two Italian teachers leading a school trip with bratty kids have very different concepts of the ideal Paris. A Swiss artist taking a cure near Naples later turns the boredom experienced at the facility into his greatest painting. A refugee from Laos and her French-born grandson ruminate on their national identities. Fior stays on theme even as he veers into science fiction, with battling robots or evidence of aliens’ presence. He pushes characters into crises, the visual metaphors for abjection becoming more outlandish to suit the genre (as where the robots’ struggle echoes the human characters’, but played out as large and physical instead of emotional and internal). Fior dramatically alters his art style throughout, varying to suit each narrative’s mood; pieces appear in charcoal, bright pastels, chiaroscuro, or traditional four-color superhero style. While there is a certain flatness to his characterizations, the stories focus more on the conflicts these players face. Fior is an incredible craftsman, and despite occasionally clichéd portrayals, the handsome art in this volume makes it worthy of attention. (May)