cover image Earthling


Aisha Franz. Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-77046-166-6

It's easy to underestimate Franz's first graphic novel. The German cartoonist's art is simple, even by the standards of alternative-comics minimalism. While there are a few single large panels for effect, the majority of the pages are 12-panel grids made up of perfect square boxes with none of the customary negative space between them. The artwork matches the bare-bones layout, drawn in soft pencil like a rough draft ripped out of a notebook. The story at first seems to be a latter-day E.T. knockoff, as a little girl befriends an aloof extraterrestrial after following a drifting balloon to field of tall grass. Franz consistently manages to shake predictability however, through a series of strange and surreal turns, some easily written off as dream sequences and others left a bit more open. The saga of the alien is entwined with the story of a mother and her two daughters, all of whom grapple with very different but largely universal crises: regret, burgeoning sexuality, and teenage rebellion, respectively. The book's bare-bones layout begins to mirror the world they find themselves trapped in. This is a quiet book, but one with a lot to say. Despite its simplicity, it warrants deep and repeated readings. (Aug.)