While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the book is actually about witchcraft, that is definitely the subject matter, and Gfrörer works many bits and bobs of folklore about witches, their place in past society, superstitions and folklore.
Here’s a sabbat out in the woods, where a witch gives sexual favors to the devil. Here she is reading tea leaves, and offering magical help to a desperate local the church has refused. Here is an echo of Hansel and Gretel, of Baba Yaga’s hut in Wassilissa the Beautiful. There’s an animal familiar, a spell, a summoning…and magic that’s not really magic.
What’s remarkable is that while Gfrörer includes a survey of witch lore in so short a space, it’s all encountered naturally, in service to an engrossing, complete drama with a clean, succinct, satisfying structure and a simple, almost minimalist amount of detail.
That is, the entire story unfolds organically, a day or two in the life of a couple of characters, their communication with the reader limited to their actions, and the few words they speak to one another. The cartoonist is there, of course, but it’s easy to forget that she is.
Gfrörer uses a very thin, delicate line in her drawings, leaving lots of white space in each panel, with the blacks—clothing, shadows, tree trunks—built line by slightly overlapping line. Her story unfolds in is six-panel grids, each panel with rounded corners.
The straightforwardness of the presentations, the soft delicacy of the art makes the graphic, sometimes disturbing imagery—it’s labeled “mature readers,” and that’s certainly who it’s for—an immediate, palpable feel. What’s happening on the pages is simply what’s happening, it’s not meant to be cool or exciting, sexy or thrilling or scary.
The story is that of a woman who lives in an unusual-looking house out in the woods, and the young man who is wracked with grief over his young, dead lover and eager to be reunited with her, and how the witch woman helps him accomplish the seemingly impossible task. That’s the plot, but, as I said, it’s not really what the book is about. That seems to come up when the witch summons a demon of sorts to engage in the sort of evening phone call chitchat that you might share with a friend, on the subject of human love and sex.
The creature has pretty strong opinions on the matter, and while there’s no way of determining from the work itself to what degree the artist agrees, or to what degree the story itself actually supports that morale—the speaker is a demon, after all—it is presented as something to think about.
And if one could ask for anything more from an enormously dramatically satisfying, well-crafted work that dabbles in interesting, somewhat outré subject matter, “something to think about” would probably be that anything.