Fantagraphics. Sept. 2020. 56p. ISBN 9781683963516. $19.99. Rated: Teen+. fantasy
Italian cartoonist Carpinteri (Pop-eye) combines a range of artistic styles, including futurism, cubism, and German expressionism is this fantasy tale of an undersea metropolis. Happiness is vital to the people of Aquatlantic, so much so that they have a Minister of Harmony and greet one another by saying joy instead of hello. Nothing brings the people more joy than the antics of Bho, a vaudevillian comedian renowned for depicting a boorish, self-involved surface dweller, playing upon a stereotype the populace is taught from birth. When Bho starts to feel dissatisfied with his life and work, it disrupts his relationship with his beloved Stella and worries his turtle companion Rex, especially after he becomes obsessed with some of the artifacts he sees while visiting a museum devoted to life on land. Soon, Bho plots an explosive final performance, in which he plans to retire his surface-dweller character once and for all, unwittingly triggering a chain of events that threatens to result in a confrontation with the world above and may cause the destruction of the Aquatlantic way of life forever.
VERDICT Carpinteri’s imaginative worldbuilding and astonishing illustration more than compensate for a relatively slight plot. Recommended for larger graphic novels collections.
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