cover image The Great Beyond

The Great Beyond

Léa Murawiec, trans. from the French by Aleshia Jensen. Drawn & Quarterly, $32.95 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-77046-677-7

Self-promotion is a life-or-death proposition in Murawiec’s English-language debut, an exhilarating satire of celebrity and the attention economy that bursts with pop sensibility. In an absurdist metropolitan dystopia choked with signs and billboards bearing citizens’ names, lonely people aren’t just forgotten. They lose their corporeal form and die. Manel Naher’s low-key routine of bookstore browsing and chats over noodles with her one good friend (“I can’t wait to get out of this city full of maniacs,” she bemoans) gets a gut check when a new release by a singer with the same name becomes a hit (and is titled “My Name’s on Everybody’s Lips,” no less). The nonfamous Manel suffers a heart attack because her “presence was almost non-existent” in the wake of the pop sensation Manel’s success. A breathless, Kafkaesque quest to enhance her public “presence” takes Manel from doctors to discos to desperation as she wonders if the eponymous “great beyond”—which refers to the uncharted verdant frontier beyond the city limits—is free of the elaborate economy built on name recognition. Murawiec renders her cartoon figures with a rubbery, Gumby-ish dynamism; Manel charges into each panel with brash determination, her ponytail floating mid-bounce. Both a briskly paced adventure story and an unsettling send-up of digital-age branding and narcissism, this introduces a bold stylist due for a little name recognition herself. (Oct.)