Technically, this is a children’s book, but honestly, I wish everyone would read this!
In the fifth volume of this deeply intelligent, highly accessible history series, our intrepid guides, Annie and Nico, go on a tour of historical pandemics, focusing primarily on the plague. They cover the historical and geographical spread of the disease — at least as it was recorded and correctly identified — from the 6th century when it was known as the Justinian Plague, to the last modern mass outbreak after Japan dropped dirty bombs carrying the bacteria over China during World War II. Since then, incidents of the plague have been isolated and controlled by the World Health Organization and local health authorities. It’s still deadly, but with proper monitoring, the world has been spared the waves of death the plague caused for millennia.
If only we could say the same for other diseases! Fabrice Erre and Sylvain Savoia touch on other pandemics including COVID-19 in the bonus material, and while they remain quite neutral in their factual reporting, it’s hard to miss the sharp irony that underlines the entire book as they discuss how the disease spreads, how to contain it, and how woefully and sometimes willfully ignorant people can be. One of my favorite panels in this book has the 14th century Pope Clement VI pinching the bridge of his nose in frustration as he tries to stop flagellants from parading from town to town, bringing both disease and riots in their wake. Some people just don’t want to listen to authority, never mind common sense, so certain are they of their own specialness.
Annie and Nico explain all this to readers in clear language, with their own irrepressible humor and antics adding just the right touch of entertainment to the proceedings. I learned a lot from reading this, as would anyone capable of reading historical comics on their own. As always, Mssrs Erre and Savoia make for a brilliant team, with art that is as deeply witty as the text is thoughtful. Props also to Nanette McGuinness for her translations here!
On a slightly sadder note, Papercutz editor-in-chief Jim Salicrup, a COVID-19 survivor himself, dedicates this volume to David Anthony Kraft, a comics writer and publisher who wasn’t so lucky in his own encounter with the terrible disease. People need to read this book and get vaccinated if possible, and practice masking and social distancing as necessary. We can save lives if we all work together, else we’ll be doomed to repeat the history Annie and Nico and their creators have taken such pains to educate us about and against.
Magical History Tour #5: The Plague, History Of A Pandemic by Fabrice Erre & Sylvain Savoia was published September 28 2021 by Papercutz Press and is available from all good booksellers, including