Writer, Artist, & Colorist: Mirka Andolfo
Lettering: Fabio Amelia
Publisher: Image Comics]
Review by Jim Allegro
It’s not easy for a pig to find love. Especially when it’s Leslie, the young protagonist of Mirka Andolfo’s fantasy comic, Unnatural #1, in which a futuristic government penalizes inter-species and same-sex love and marriage. Originally published in 2016 in Italy under the title Contro Natura, the American debut of this book is part of Image’s most recent foray into romance comics. And, following on the successes of Twisted Romance and Death of Love, the message of Unnatural is much the same: sex and love are what you make it. We should not be hampered in our relationships by society’s perception of what is ‘normal’ or ‘natural.’
George Orwell’s influence looms large over this comic book. There are shades of Animal Farm in the allegorical world of anthropomorphic mice, alligators, and other animals whose co-existence is a subject of government scrutiny. The story opens as Leslie awakens from a steamy dream of a sexual encounter with a wolf. That such a relationship is illegal in her world also evokes 1984. In Orwell’s dystopian novel, the hero fights an authoritarian state that regulates behavior and squelches free expression. In Leslie’s case, the futuristic state suppresses her right to engage in cross/same-species sex or marriage.
The obvious nature of the allegory is both the strength and weakness of Unnatural. This is a simple story with a powerful message about what it means to make a family. One need not search too hard to find the challenge this comic book presents to hetero-normative and racist ideas about sex and marriage. But, at least for the time being, the message overpowers the narration. In other words, there is not much going on in Unnatural but the moral. We meet Leslie and her friends, we see where they work, and we watch their struggle to find love. But for a glimpse of a hooded stranger who stalks Leslie, the story so far lacks much by way of compelling narrative tension.
To be fair, Andolfo uses that narrative space to round out the characters. She introduces a sympathetic gay friend, a peppy roommate who keeps Leslie in sushi, and a creepy boss who harasses her. The writer makes a point of giving Leslie an every-girl quality. She likes cheesecake, drinks wine in the tub, and, as Andolfo says in the epilogue, she leads a “boring life” like “girls all over the world.” But what is not boring is this pig’s passion for sex. This is a woman in control of her own sexual desires. Lust is not a bad word in this comic, whether for sushi or for wolves. It provides the subtext of a young woman’s coming of age story.
Andolfo’s artwork and coloring confirms this viewpoint. The artist portrays the main character of the story in broad and sensual tones. She draws heavily on pink and blue hues to vest the comic with a playful atmosphere of sexual anticipation. The art can be a bit risqué at times, with renderings of Leslie as curvaceous and semi-nude. Although, the sexual nature of the material is meaningful, designed to reinforce the point of this new Image book, that, be it pigs or humans, women are in control of their own sexual and personal destinies.
Verdict: Buy It!
I liked it more than Death of Love but less than Twisted Romance. The second issue promises more plot twists, so I say stick with it, or, at the very least, wait for the trade. Unnatural is worth the effort.