Fish by Bianca Bagnarelli

A part of Nobrow’s 17×23 series (a smaller, shorter format designed to introduce new authors), Fish is the type of story that is quite uniquely suited as a discussion tool between parent and child about grief and loss. Sparsely told, read in minutes, but to really understand the depth takes a lot of exploration over time. It’s an emotive rather than reactive meditation that is over very quickly at 24 pages.

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Story: Milo lost his parents to the river in a tragic accident.  He’s unable to come to terms with the fragility of life, especially since death is all around him: a school of dead fish in the river, dead flowers on the dinner table, beheading shrimp in order to eat them. They all add up to Milo’s questioning of his world and how it was so suddenly disrupted.

Fish is a very raw story that isn’t about growth or resolution. It’s about the moment, the searching for meaning and understanding in a random event. There are subtle clues in the art throughout the story highlighting Milo’s confusion: he passes a decorative skull on a wall, dead leaves on the ground by a nicked plant bed, a sawed off tree trunk in the background…. You won’t notice them at first but each reread underscores the precision and need for each panel.

The art is appropriately clean and infused with an appropriately sunset-themed palette. The skill is apparent – there is a quiet serenity in the art that belies the emotional turmoil within. Milo’s loneliness is underscored by a sparsely populated French Riviera and inability to connect with his friends/relatives.

Due to the brevity and subject matter, this is the type of graphic novel you read if you want to feel something afterwards – to create an inner dialogue. But if you are looking for an adventure or require resolution in your stories, you’ll likely be disappointed by Fish. It’s very much a story of one day in the now.

Reviewed from an ARC.

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