This spare, graphic retelling of the myth features illustrations that underscore its pervasive sadness.
Not that the story’s tragic events sit heavily on this rendition. In Pommaux’s neoclassical-style drawings, slender, pale Orpheus looks so fetchingly ethereal it’s no wonder that when he plays for the ladies, one sighs: “He’s so dreamy.” Arbitrarily right-handed in some scenes and left-handed in others, he produces music—represented by odd airborne flurries of dots and hinky abstract symbols—from a lyre with a turtle-shell soundbox that likewise switches sides on occasion. When Eurydice, fending off a grabby wedding guest, is fatally bitten by a snake, Orpheus cuts a wrenchingly lonely figure as he makes his way to Hades’ eerie otherworldly realm in an almost successful effort to bring his love back to life. Later, after he is dismembered by incensed female groupies (“Get over her already”), his still-singing head and other parts (unillustrated, unfortunately) are gathered for burial by the Muses. In an apparent effort to keep it from competing with the art for attention, the text is printed in widely spaced blocks of microscopic type, with obtrusive asterisks that accompany the first iterations of every proper name throughout. Both a final spread of “character cards” and the index include explanatory annotations about the tale’s mortals, immortals, and locales.
Though it’s well-stocked with context-building features, the tale’s flippant dialogue and inconsistent visual details sound discordant notes. (map, bibliography). (Graphic mythology. 10-13)