cover image The Butchery

The Butchery

Bastien Vives, trans. from the French by Jenna Allen. Fantagraphics, $19.99 (92p) ISBN 978-1-68396-447-6

Love becomes a battlefield in this unexpectedly haunting look by Vives (The Grande Odalisque) at how people in relationships can destroy each other. Two nameless lovers in the bloom of youth swoon over each other in a series of vignettes whose seemingly simple framing (an impromptu waltz lesson, brushing teeth together) belies the erratic passions lying beneath. Vives springs his trap sneakily, slipping in fantasy episodes —in one, a veteran paratrooper warns a new recruit before a jump, “You could get butchered down there”—that foreshadow and mimic the sudden emotional leaps in the relationship. The couple’s narcotized love-high is subtly downshifted after one unexplained argument opens a chasm between them. As the relationship clatters through breakups and reunifications, Vives inserts casually brutal scenes with doll-like avatars that offer fatalistic renderings of their real-world trauma: a man slams a board into a woman’s head and doesn’t answer when she asks, “Why did you do that?”; she stabs him while assuring, “It’s better for us this way.” The loosely framed sketchbook-style art on white backgrounds—far from the precise detail Vives is known for—holds a ghostly, unfinished, and somehow eternal feel. This artfully rendered fable captures the love, pain, and unbridgeable chasms of romance gone awry. (Aug.)