Publisher: KaBOOM!, an imprint of BOOM! Studios
Writer/Artist: Gustavo Borges
Colorist: Cris Peter
Release Date: 19th September 2018
PETALS, a new original graphic novel from the KaBOOM! imprint of BOOM! Studios, is a remarkable achievement. Over the course of its 32 pages, cartoonist Gustavo Borges tells us the story of a mysterious bird creature who happens upon a pair of foxes – a father and son – in the winter woods, taking it upon himself to help them out.
Utilising an entirely wordless style, Borges injects an impressive amount of feeling and emotion into his story as the top hat and suit-clad bird helps the youngest fox once the father falls ill, doing whatever he can to help his new-found ‘family’ survive the harsh winter.
There’s definitely an all-ages sweetness and charm to the artwork, but the story itself is packed with depth and a surprising amount of emotion, including a somewhat disarming blend of heartbreak and hope. One minute you’re enjoying the expressive, cartoony visuals and the next you’re wondering why there’s a lump in your throat. It’s a great approach, and it’s apparent throughout just how much effort Borges has put into striking this tricky balance.
Full disclosure, there are a few parts of the story where the ‘wordless’ approach doesn’t work quite as well as it perhaps should, with Borges having to use word balloons containing crude diagrams in order convey to the conversations between the characters. For the most part though, things work extremely well in conveying the sometimes complicated character and storyline beats, and there’s certainly never any ambiguity or confusion about what’s going on.
At the end of the way, probably the best way to describe PETALS would be to say that it feels like one of those award-winning Pixar shorts, albeit in comic book form. An emotionally arresting tale of friendship and sacrifice, this is an easy book to recommend.