cover image Schappi


Anna Haifisch. Fantagraphics, $16.99 trade paper (92p) ISBN 978-1-68396-526-8

Childlike animal tales take on a sinister cast in this collection of razor-sharp modern fables from Haifisch (The Artist). In “The Hall of the Bright Carvings,” a wealthy reptile art collector gets grim satisfaction from making artists destroy themselves to produce new pieces for his gallery: “I can hear the artists crying in the distance. The sound lulls me into a deep slumber.” In “The Mouseglass,” a UN-style creature summit crosses Babar-like whimsy with remorseless realpolitik and interspecies racism. The gentler “Fuji-san” follows a rabbit poet as he settles into an isolated life at the base of Mt. Fuji and befriends the squid who brings him ink. In other pieces, ostriches run in a self-satisfied posse and an awkward weasel tries to break into the art world. The stories are told in full-page illustrations with dryly ironic captions, as if conjured from a half-remembered picture book. Cute but unsettlingly blank-eyed animals twist and writhe across the pages, spindly architecture rises haltingly toward the sky, and the limited palette of bright, flat secondary colors creates a mood of simplified hyperreality. With dry wit and understated visual flair, Haifisch finds new things to say in an age-old anthropomorphic tradition. Agent: Alessandra Sternfeld, AM-Book. (Apr.)