cover image Totem


Laura Pérez, trans. from the Spanish by Andrea Rosenberg. Fantagraphics, $24.99 (144p) ISBN 978-1-68396-897-9

Reality is a half-remembered dream in Spanish cartoonist Pérez’s macabre, visually mesmerizing, and occasionally confusing English-language debut, a mash-up of vignettes about love, death, and the spiritual realm. At the center of the various narrative threads is a road trip shared by two beautiful young women in love. They seek adventure, swap ancestral tales and metaphysical musings, encounter strangers, and drop in on a mysterious communal gathering with sinister undertones in the Arizona desert. Rendered in clean, delicate lines that harbor loads of emotional import, the art is reminiscent of Adrian Tomine’s more expansive drawing. Vibrant portraits of people hanging out in diners, motel rooms, and apartments weave through black-and-white snippets of tall trees or looming ghosts. The meager plot serves to move the women through these atmospheric environs. Though at times the wordless sequences, particularly in the second half of the book, can be hard to follow, they add to the relentless otherworldly vibes. “In some places, everyday life is extraordinary,” one of the characters narrates. Perez immerses readers in the intermingled realms of the living and dead. Despite some uneven execution, this layered work blossoms with nuance for close readers. (Sept.)