cover image Firebugs


Nino Bulling. Drawn & Quarterly, $27 (158p) ISBN 978-1-77046-705-7

Berlin cartoonist Bulling’s scintillating English-language debut features a queer couple navigating transitions. Hard-partyer Ingken has just returned from Paris to Berlin, where they share a flat with their girlfriend Lily, an American performance artist. Lily is trans, and Ingken also has come to realize they no longer identify as female. At first Lily is incredibly supportive (“Your pain is real”), but soon Ingken’s despondent dithering begins to wear on her (“I get it [but] sometimes I want to give them a good, hard push” she tells a friend). Adding to the tension is the fact that Lily’s been casually hooking up with a crush (the couple’s relationship is open, but jealousy simmers). This intimate drama unfolds against the backdrop of global climate change, the fear of which feeds into the couple’s sense of frustration in an unmoored world. Bulling’s script is more meditative than propulsive, but its depiction of melancholia—the way a crisis of identity can feel both significant and infinitesimal in the face of actual apocalypse—is often moving. It’s a testament to the subtle storytelling that the volume’s abrupt and ambiguous close feels somehow more complete than any more definitive resolution could. The loose-lined art has a touch of the surreal, which adds to the disorientation, though occasionally it can be difficult to tell figures apart. This is a quintessential story of queer millennial malaise. (Feb.)