Saturday, November 13, 2010

Temperance by Cathy Malkasian

Temperance is a graphic novel allegory about the culture of fear and its effects on society. Pa is a charismatic religious zealot who builds a ship-like enclave, Blessedbowl, where his followers will spend years waiting for him to return. The society is lead by Minerva, whose doubts and fraught relationship to Pa are kept hidden from the people. Lester is a young man who intervened when Pa assaulted his adoptive daughter, Peggy. The ensuing fight left Lester with amnesia and Minerva claimed him as her husband.

My initial reaction included puzzlement. Is Pa a tyrant or a non-physical embodiment of violence? Is Peggy a woman or a tree or the concept of balance? Is she still Peggy when she is made into the wooden doll called Temperance, or is that merely another facet of her? Is Minerva a deluded person or a good leader? The story captivated me anyway, and I could feel understanding happening on a subliminal level. I went back through it a second time, enjoying the art and the layers of meaning. For more insights, check out this interview with Malkasian at the Graphic Novel Reporter site.

Highly recommended. It is challenging and rewarding and deserves repeated rereading to absorb its full brilliance.

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