Billie the Bee

Mary Fleener. Fantagraphics, $14.99 (128p) ISBN 978-1-68396-173-4
Fleener (Slutburger), a cult autobio-comics pioneer from the 1980s Wimmin’s Comix scene, makes a striking departure from form in this goofy but layered fictional look at the natural world through the compound eyes of one very special honeybee. Billie, a worker bee of unusually large size, receives a unique assignment from the Queen: become her hive’s “ranger,” exploring the Californian eucalyptus grove where they live and befriending the local fauna. While Billie builds community with bawdy turtles, a rhythm-impaired rattlesnake, and an epicurean coyote, she also encounters foreign predators as human interference disrupts her environment’s delicate balance. While the plot, rendered in playful black-and-white line drawings, is a standard coming-of-age yarn that builds to a pat climax in which Billie must save her hive from natural disaster, the underlying moral explores how outsiders can traumatize native populations through negligent intrusion. This trauma is keenly felt through Fleener’s signature cubism, deployed sparingly in key scenes to add emotion and tension (though that same technique feels dated when used to spice up sporadic musical interludes). With some adult language and brutality yet an all-ages, semieducational tone, Billie’s story is a quirky, pleasant take on the talking-animal book. (Mar.)
Reviewed on : 01/22/2019
Release date: 02/26/2019
Genre: Comics
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