Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #62 by Drew Barth
A Trip Down the River
Let’s take our minds off the world by thinking of the underworld, specifically a new vision of what it could look like through the eyes of creator Loïc Locatelli-Kournwsky in Persephone.
Locatelli-Kournwsky blends myth with modern storytelling influences, especially Hayao Miyazaki. From the first page we are introduced to a word vastly different from what we know of traditional Greek mythology. The world is divided between two realms, Eleusis above and Hades below—but these two realms do not separate the living and the dead. These are simply two realms that interact and trade with one another.
Until war happens. A magical barrier is erected between the two realms. All of this is established in a couple pages. We are handed this strange, familiar world. We start with Persephone, a student mediocre in everything but her botany class. She’s the adopted daughter of the esteemed mage, Demeter.
Locatelli-Kournwsky has created a visual world unlike anything I’ve seen in contemporary comics. The life breathing through a train station or a ferry boat or a single room within this world is enough to warrant their own stories. Everything feels lived-in here. Even the most opulent of palaces still resonate with a history that happens just off to the left in the bleed between panels. Those panels themselves are sometimes massive. What Locatelli-Kournwsky does throughout Persephoneis use the space of this graphic novel, a space bigger than many normal collections, to let the world and characters breathe. Persephone herself exists in giant rooms and spaces that bring up how small she is in her world. A nine-panel grid of her trying to make plants grow in the dead soil of Hades still feels massive even next to some of the splash pages. This is a world that lets the air move through it with ease amid the tensions boiling beneath its surface and the art only helps to strengthen that feeling.
Persephone is a triumph of mythopoetic storytelling, and is another spectacular comic being put out by Archaia. Known for recently publishing some of the expanded universe of Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal and Labyrinth series, Archaia has been putting out some of the best graphic novels of the past couple decades, namely Old City Blues and Mouse Guard. Persephone is among them.
Get excited. Look below.
Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.