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Tuesday, 26 April 2016

New D+Q: Brecht Evens' Panther

Hitting the shelves today is Panther, the latest book from renowned Belgian cartoonist Brecht Evens, now available in English for the first time. Readers familiar with his previous work will recognize Evens' signature style, using vibrant watercolours and borderless panels to tell the story. Indeed, his storytelling has steadily evolved, and is more cohesive in Panther than his earlier books. In his first D+Q release since 2012's The Making Of, Evens explores some seriously haunting terrain.

Protagonist Christine, a little girl who lives in a big house with her father, is grief-stricken when her cat Lucy has to be euthanized. But shortly after Lucy's death, Christine finds a new feline companion: a shape-shifting creature called Panther who appears one day in her dresser drawer, and immediately charms her with his stories and antics. Christine's world is rendered in blue and red, but when Panther materializes, he brings yellow along with him, allowing all the colours of the rainbow to be seen.

Though there are some early hints that Panther may not be exactly the kind, benevolent friend that he presents himself as, to Christine he is a fun, magical playmate, and a welcome comfort from the grief of losing Lucy.

Claiming to be the crown prince of the magical kingdom of Pantherland, Panther's quick-thinking and smooth-talking allows him to cleverly hide his thinly-veiled nefarious intentions toward Christine. Whenever he says or does something noticeably frightening, he quickly changes tack, reassuring Christine that he's harmless.

Of course, like most imaginary friends, Panther can't be seen by Christine's father. Unlike most imaginary friends, Panther actively encourages Christine to keep him a secret, even asking her to get the key to her room from her Dad. In Panther's absence, the world returns to red and blue; he takes the joy and colour with him when he leaves, and Christine misses him.

But all is not what it seems on the surface. Panther's relationship with Christine becomes increasingly uncomfortable. One of her favourite toys goes missing and "reappears" under dubious circumstances. And have you ever seen a more disturbing game of Twister?

Things take a turn for the downright sinister when Panther's friends show up to celebrate Christine's birthday. So don't let a passing glance at the bright colours and cute animals fool you - Panther is no children's fairy tale! Creepy through and through, the story's conclusion also leaves room for ambiguity and interpretation. Seeing as Panther is our pick for May's installment of our monthly Graphic Novel Book Club, there's a perfect opportunity coming up to discuss and share your take on this iconoclastic work. Also, it's 20% from now until the meeting on May 18th, so get your mitts on a copy while the getting's good!

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