Panther is One of the Best Comic Books of the Year for Vulture

“The 10 Best Comic Books of 2016” / Vulture / Abraham Riesman / December 9, 2016

Children's books are easy targets for deconstruction and satire. You can play upon an adult's fond memories to get some cheap laughs; you can make a reader feel naughty by stirring lurid sex into them; you can even just riff on their stupid cover designs. But it's no small feat to create something genuinely moving and upsetting with the structures and tropes of a tale told at bedtime. Remarkably, Belgian writer-artist Brecht Evens has pulled it off in Panther, one of the most beautiful and disturbing narratives of childhood ever produced in the comics medium. It would be a shame to spoil the agonizing surprises of the story, but suffice it to say that Panther is like a tragic Calvin and Hobbes or an ominous The Cat in the Hat. Evens charms you with sequences of simple pictures in which a young girl talks to a shape-shifting jungle cat, then abruptly widens your eyes with full-page watercolor tableaux of chaotic rooms that disobey the rules of perspective. His characters' sparse dialogue squeezes your chest with all the portents left unsaid, and once you realize where the novella is going, it's too late. It's difficult to say what's real and what's imagined in Panther, but that's probably the point. When you're a child, the line between the two barely exists, making your joy and terror potentially infinite.

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