Aisha Franz, 208 pgs, Drawn and Quarterly, drawnandquarterly.com, $19.95
Berlin-based Aisha Franz’s debut graphic novel could easily be classified as young adult fiction, but this would undermine Franz’s ability to speak to readers of all ages. While Earthling aptly conveys female teenagerdom (and the thresholds preceding it), Franz intertwines these storylines with complex issues surrounding womanhood and the choices – or lack thereof – that characterize us as adults.
The title itself, Earthling, serves to remind us of the possibility that there is something else out there, conceding that our human existence is fleeting and trivial. As Earthling suggests, it is when we are confronted with such triviality that, even as adults, we are at our most vulnerable, desperate to belong to something meaningful and exciting but unaware of how to do so.
Earthling follows the lives of three women all living under one roof: Mädchen, who is on the cusp of her teenaged years, her older sister, and mother, as they each await the arrival of Mädchen’s father. As his arrival date comes closer, each woman begins to experience surreal, fantastical events that illuminate an otherwise claustrophobic existence in a bleak suburb. Unappealing, blurry, black and white landscapes and boxy, suburban row houses are increasingly punctuated with cartoon realms, humans walking through television screens, and sexy aliens. While Franz’s work remains colourless and minimalist, she perfectly conveys the dreariness of a suburban hometown while skillfully holding her reader’s attention.
While Earthling is a quick read, its foremost narrative is often side-tracked with storylines left unfinished or open ended, making for a more interactive reading experience. For this reason, Earthling should be read multiple times to fully grasp the possibilities that Franz has so artfully laid out for us. (Chloe Stelmanis)