Butterflies are a lot like mustaches. I don’t mean in their, I dunno, biological makeup? I’m speaking more of their shared iconographical appropriation. See, mustaches used to be either robust or hilarious; verdant badges worn proudly by the brave, until a bunch of shit-stain hipsters stole them...without actually being able to properly grow one. The same is true of butterflies. Sorta. What once were gentle, pretty little creatures soon became de rigueur symbols; the go-to choice for some women (and men) to tell the world that they, too, are unique and beautiful ... mostly by inking them permanently on the small of their backs. This speaks nothing of the character or moral fiber of these folks, it’s just that, like dudes with mustaches, every chick seems to have a butterfly stamp, pendant, anklet or t-shirt. They’re as played-out as a Pharrell song. So then why did I decide to pick up a comic book called Butterfly?
Honestly, it was the credits page. As I said above, I’ve seen the image of the butterfly appropriated in many different ways, but seeing one comprised of a shadowy arsenal was new, to say the least, and it grabbed my attention from even before the word go. And I’m ecstatic it did, because Archaia’s Butterfly #1 is, without question, one of the most gripping espionage books currently on stands today, not because it - like a butterfly tattoo - feigns originality under bright new packaging, but because it flutters with something different, more personal ... and menacing.
This introductory issue follows Rebecca Faulkner - a CIA operative whose call-sign doubles as the contentious title of this book - as she undertakes a secret mission, the point of which remains unclear; almost as much as its fallout. As is the wont of best laid plans, things go awry and Rebecca is forced to flee, with only the pops and whistles of a broken cell phone message to guide her, not just to secluded “safety,” but into a reunion that shouldn’t be possible.
Given that there are two consecutive plot threads in Butterfly #1, this is one packed book, and both halves, as well as its resultant whole, are brilliant. As tense and deadly as it gets, Marguerite Bennett facilitates Arash Amel’s story in a simmering sort of silence. Beginning with a scene that is reminiscent of a very real and recent firearm tragedy, this issue quickly (and explicitly) reveals its narrative strength, not necessarily in explosions, but in showcasing the narrative power of “the little things.”
I love Bennett’s cadence here as it drives the first half of the story in particular, perforating the tension with these resounding little hits. She uses Rebecca’s narration to great effect in this regard, reserving her words for stilted introspection and consideration about the parameters of her mission and skills; her humanity never truly coming to the forefront of her mind, either when she was a child ... or in one scene, where it is implied that she might have to “deal with” one.
In fact, the entire current of this story is cold (including a few geographical temperature inconsistencies) and calculating, but there is a hint of it possibly warming as the conflict within it begins to flare at the end, with past, secret lives revealed in a way that logically changes much of everything we have just read. That dime is dropped so well in Butterfly #1, and with the proviso that this doesn’t instantly suffer from cliché because of it, I think I’m going to really enjoy watching this story unfold.
On the other hand, Antonio Fuso’s art is anything but the delicate dance the title of this book implies. It is blocky, chalky, choppy and stone-faced. Both in his visual storytelling and style alone, Fuso reminds me somewhat of a less refined Eduardo Risso, mixed with a paper-cut diorama nonchalance; and for the most part, I really like it. Sometimes its perspective is skewed by too much style, however, and a few panels do feel rushed, but Fuso’s talent is undeniable, if still being developed. He does get some assistance from colorist Adam Guzowski, who (in my copy at least) appears to be doing some interesting blotting techniques, but is at ease draping the proceedings in thick swathes of shadow.
I’m so happy I decided not to judge this book by its cover, or indeed its title. Butterfly #1 is a great spin on the espionage comic, loading its clip with armor-piercing narrative rounds that you won’t see coming, but will, in the end, leave you breathless.
Story: Arash Amel Writer: Marguerite Bennett Artist: Antonio Fuso Publisher: Archaia Entertainment Price: $3.99 Release Date: 9/24/14 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital