cover image The Song of Aglaia

The Song of Aglaia

Anne Simon, trans. from the French by Jenna Allen. Fantagraphics, $19.99 (120p) ISBN 978-1-68396-107-9

This bizarre and beautiful fantasy weaves mythological storytelling with references to music and literature as it follows the rise and fall of a mighty sea nymph, Aglaia. Simon (Marx, Freud & Einstein: Heroes of the Mind) draws a surrealistic landscape in black-and-white, where her animalistic creatures almost blend into the detailed backgrounds, in settings like a busy circus, a blank landscape full of holes, or an intricate and detailed palace. In the beginning, Aglaia lives in a simple grove with her sisters but longs for more adventure. One day, she meets a flighty merman whom she hopes can provide a little excitement in her life. Unfortunately, after impregnating her, he is never seen again. Her father banishes her to the outside world, where she joins a traveling circus and marries the ringmaster, and gives birth to three girls (whom she shows little interest in thereafter). When the tyrannical king kidnaps her daughters to make them his household servants and concubines, Aglaia rallies to rescue them and overthrows the monarch. Aglaia rises in power, liberating the world’s women to become their queen, only to fall once more in disgrace. Her story is told in the style of an epic Greek hero myth like those of Heracles and Odysseus, unfolding in vignettes and left with an open ending. This expertly woven saga of triumph and disappointment explores human relationships, connections, and what women must do to survive. (July)