Most comic readers will know Michel Fiffe from his self-published superhero series Copra, which reimagines DC’s Suicide Squad and other ’80s superheroes with a radically innovative art style and a story that is both emotionally grounded and exceptionally weird. All of those creative elements are on display in Zegas, a new Fantagraphics graphic novel collecting short comics he released between 2009 and 2012 about two siblings dealing with everyday problems in a world that looks ordinary—until something totally bizarre happens.
Take this exclusive excerpt from “Birthday,” the first story in Zegas: It begins with a typical domestic interaction between a brother and sister in a plain apartment. Boston doesn’t want to celebrate his birthday because it doesn’t mean anything, and Emily needs her brother to celebrate his birthday because if that doesn’t get him out of the house, nothing will. Totally understandable conflict, clear personal stakes, nothing too odd. But once they head outside, they encounter a wish-granting “tit well” and Ortega, the “street mayor” who emerges from the ground and folds in on itself to leave. Boston and Emily end up a pub where things return to a recognizable normalcy, but there’s an undercurrent of strangeness that runs through every subsequent scene, no matter the tone.
Part of that strangeness comes from the visuals, which become more experimental when the subject matter explores the unknown. There are a lot of clever visual touches in the sequence between the apartment and the bar: the series of panels showing Boston on Emily walking that condenses time and distance in a small space; the red silhouettes of Boston and Emily that get pushed from their bodies to show the force of a sandstorm; the color gradient that separates as Ortega’s head drifts above his body. Fiffe continues to put in evocative little details even when the story calms down, like the yellow-orange line under the dialogue of the bar drunk that evokes both beer and urine, and readers can discover more of Fiffe’s ingenuity by picking up Zegas, which goes on sale today.