A Graphic Novel by Denis Lapière, Émilie Alibert, and art by Adrián
Most fantasy stories seem to pigeon-hole themselves into the same mold as things like J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings almost to the letter. It can become pretty dull when you have thousands of the same medieval-ish story about elves and dwarves fighting dragons and the like. Every once in a while, something comes along and goes completely nuts with the world building in a fantasy setting, and today’s top is one such case. The Wolf Queen – Book 1 The Rebellion of Petigré by Denis Lapière, Émilie Alibert, and art by Adrián, is a new series published by Europe Comics that uses a fantasy setting to explore concepts of gender, gender-relations, trans rights, and power structures in a way that was fairly surprising.
“In a distant time when summer and winter alternate as quickly as night and day, giant insects have replaced most other lifeforms. Wolves have become civilized and switch their gender at every moon. Egg-laying women rule over men. And the half-wizard Tometeu tribe ride around on small caterpillars and beetles. Amongst this throng are Petrigré, Rum, Angus, and JJJ: heroes in search of love, identity, dreams, freedom, and also a treasure hidden in the heart of the icy mountains…Will they find it? What will be? Gold and silver? Supreme power? An unstoppable weapon of destruction? And what consequences will it have for all the tribes teetering on the brink of war?”
In this world we not only see a strange power structure wherein one tribe are some sort of matriarchical egg-laying humans, we see another that are werewolves that swap gender on full moons. A tenuous truce exists between these two “tribes”, and that seems to be slowly teetering towards full collapse. All power structures are deeply based in some way on gender, and neither tribe is exactly doing a great job on being accommodating to anyone “outside the norm” in any way.
The humans are so matriarchical, that they are borderline misandrist, routinely executing young men for no logical reason, whereas the wolves seem to have a need for stolen human eggs to magically force a gender assignment that may not be wanted by the person. For example, the heroine of the story is a Princess that wants to stay female, but only men can rule – as such her father has ruled that she WILL be male by the time she is eighteen – the time when it basically locks in place. There’s also this whole thing about executed criminals becoming “mindless zombies” that isn’t fully explored in book one, but it seems interesting.
I can see what this story is trying to do, but the execution is not perfect – this story is somehow very vague and somewhat ham-fisted in it’s messaging at the same time. With this being book one, perhaps the narrative balances itself out a tad as the story goes. As it stands, you are somewhat dropped into the middle of a lot of fantastical concepts and an obvious social commentary without much foreshadowing of the author’s intent moving forward. Is this pro LGBTQ and Trans or not? I can make assumptions, but I am not sure. This truly would have likely been better as an omnibus than broken down. Assuming the story doesn’t veer to the opposite direction that I assume it will, it portrays a positive relationship between a non-standard pairing of inter-racial and non-binary people that was interesting for a book like this. The role of one of the characters, one of the aforementioned zombie people seems a bit problematic at the beginning, but we shall see.
Overall, I liked this, but it is hard to completely have an opinion due to how quick this portion of the book goes and how little the plot moves forward in the grand scheme of things. The art is gorgeous and it has some cool concepts so far, so it is promising. I will keep my eyes peeled for the next chapter to see how everything moves along. Assuming the messaging comes together
NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.
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