The Heavy Bright

Fantagraphics. Mar. 2023. 340p. ISBN 9781683966920. $39.99. FANTASY
In a mystical-realist preindustrial world, people thrived in harmony with their ancestors, the living conversing convivially with the dead. But then a “something” visits the land, revealing itself as bright lights and then a thousand heavy black egglike shapes. The eggs spread greed and violence among men, leading them to torment the women and ultimately break the connection with the ancestors. Then girls, too, disappear. Only Arna, a queer girl passing as a man and assisted by her luminous partner Sela, learns how to release the Bright from the Heavy to bring men and women together and restore love. Malkasian (Eartha) infuses her fable with whimsy, adding some playfulness to the grim plot elements. Beautifully limpid watercolor art sets the story outside reality but close enough to reflect current society’s flaws.
VERDICT Malkasian’s “once upon a time” parable infuses a Handmaid’s Tale–type set-up with surrealistic charm and bittersweet resolution, reminiscent of Studio Ghibli’s work. Highly recommended for fantasy connoisseurs.
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