Tripwire’s contributing writer Tim Hayes reviews Manuele Fior’s Celestia, out now from Fantagraphics…
Writer/ Artist: Manuele Fior
Manuele Fior’s comics feel like dreams taking place in their characters’ heads even when the stories are set in the real world, melancholy romances spiced with fantasy and drawn in a soft wash of watercolour brush strokes. Celestia, translated into English by Fantagraphics to continue its publication of the artist’s European comics albums, isn’t quite happening in the real world at all, even though the city that gives the book its title looks a lot like Venice, so this story has an extra pensive and unsettled feeling of alien territory. Some of that feeling does paradoxically come straight out of reality: Celestia is a refuge, home to quarrelling ghettos of citizens who have retreated into the lagoon city to escape from some undefined invading force and blown up the bridges behind them. Although the book pre-dates Covid, a nearly-Italian setting for aftermath and recuperation has its own current associations.
Celestia has beautiful paintings of pale cream Venetian masonry set against water or cerulean blue sky, and airy interiors lit by Adriatic sunlight. Later the story ventures out of the city and into the surrounding mainlands, changing the colour palette but not the level of artistry, as two characters embark on a road-trip of self-discovery that ends up being circular. Neither the rootless unsettled Pierrot, a demonstrative tear-drop applied to his face with make-up, nor the younger Dora, who like Pierrot seems to be slightly telepathic, are entirely sympathetic characters, although their squabbling arguments don’t inhibit the generous assistance received from the people they encounter. Fior draws them both with facial features exaggerated enough for confrontation but not enough for caricature or mockery of their flaws. In the far outside world the pair eventually end up at a commune of mind-linked children, a group who suggest that adults have properly screwed things up but the future could be better once the young take over.
Some of these threads in Celestia are deliberate echoes of previous Fior comics. There was another telepath named Dora in The Interview, a delicate first-contact story of alien visitation, while other Fior stories have included characters with facial markings natural or otherwise, and some very similar sci-fi cars to the one that Pierrot and Dora drive here through a dreamscape of Mark Rothko colour bands. A few other fine arts are involved also: Fior studied as an architect, and the citizens of Celestia apparently went ahead with some of the buildings that modern Venice famously couldn’t agree on, while Pierrot’s father is named Vivaldi but drawn to be the elderly Igor Stravinsky. It seems though that the old, even the old artists, have had their chance and should clear the stage for the youthful, like those kids at the commune or the empathetic Dora. This particular magic-realist world has collapsed, but out on the margins of the Celestia lagoon the recovery is already getting its act together in short trousers.
Manuele Fior will be attending the Lakes International Comics Festival in October in Kendal, Cumbria https://www.comicartfestival.com/the-art-of-creation-live-draw
Dreaming City Tripwire’s contributing writer Tim Hayes reviews Manuele Fior’s Celestia, out now from Fantagraphics… Celestia Writer/ Artist: Manuele Fior Fantagraphics Books Manuele Fior’s comics feel like dreams taking place in their characters’ heads even when the stories are set in the real world, melancholy romances spiced with fantasy and drawn in a soft wash
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