Fish by Bianca Bagnarelli

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsFish by Bianca Bagnarelli

FISH BAGNARELLIBianca Bagnarelli is an Italian artist who was born in Milan. Recipient of multiple awards, she founded a small independent label that publishes short comic stories by Italian and foreign artists. I’m pleased that I’ve discovered her work through Nobrow Press. Unfortunately, many of these works — such as Fish by Bianca Bagnarelli — are easily overlooked because they are short, quiet graphic novels that touch on the small, but significant, moments of life. In fact, Fish is only about thirty pages long, so it would be better described as a graphic short story than as a graphic novel.

Fish tells the story of Milo, a twelve-year-old boy, whose parents recently died in a car wreck. The story takes place during his first summer without them. He is surrounded by family, particularly cousins and grandparents; however, his isolation in the midst of family is clearly communicated to us. I was particularly moved by the image on the first page as he walks alone through town and passes by the mounted skull of a dead animal. Milo doesn’t Fish 2even glance at it; instead, his head in titled down away from the skull mounted on the city wall. He is frowning, and his unkempt hair falls in his eyes. He tells us about his hair throughout the six images on this page, and we see that even his hair is connected to thoughts of his parents: “I’m tired, my hair keeps falling in front of my eyes. No one dares to cut it . . . She was the last person to. These are the least of my worries.” It’s a perfect page in merging image and text since this merging allows for the thematic focus on death to permeate the page and prepare us for the rest of the story. As Milo walks around, he sees death all around him, and the story leads us to a key final scene, a moment of epiphany that is followed by Milo’s finally allowing another to comfort him.

I was deeply moved by this ending, as I was by the entire work. If you are looking for something a little different, a special work that bears rereading, thoughtful consideration, and emotional investment, Fish, a short, but powerful poetic meditation on death, is a work of art worth seeking out.

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BRAD HAWLEY, who's been with us since April 2012, earned his PhD in English from the University of Oregon with areas of specialty in the ethics of literature and rhetoric. Since 1993, he has taught courses on The Beat Generation, 20th-Century Poetry, 20th-Century British Novel, Introduction to Literature, Shakespeare, and Public Speaking, as well as various survey courses in British, American, and World Literature. He currently teaches Crime Fiction, Comics, and academic writing at Oxford College of Emory University where his wife, Dr. Adriane Ivey, also teaches English. They live with their two young children outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Read Brad's series on HOW TO READ COMICS.

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  1. I really like the idea of a “graphic short story.”

    I love the page you chose to display her writing and her artwork. This segment is a perfect blend.

  2. Brad Hawley /

    Thank you, Marion!

    I’ve got some wonderful Nobrow works I’ll be reviewing over the next few weeks, and many of them have this same quiet brilliance conveyed in the graphic short story to graphic novella format. The length, the tone, and the subject matter set Nobrow’s catalog apart from most comics we see in the U.S., but at the same time, these qualities also make these comics too easy to overlook in a market dominated by loud, bright, and lengthy comics put out by larger companies. Nobrow publishes the “indie films” of comics.

  3. Then it’s even more important that you are reviewing them here and they are getting a signal boost.

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