Franko: Fables of the Last Earth, by Cristóbal Jofré and Ángel Bernier – review by Fred Patten.
by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Franko: Fables of the Last Earth, by Cristóbal Jofré and Ángel Bernier
St. Paul, MN, Sofawolf Press, July 2016, hardcover $39.95 (v + 128 pages), trade paperback $19.95.
Franko: Fables of the Last Earth is a collection of six cartoon-art fables written by Ángel Bernier and illustrated by Cristóbal Jofré, printed in full color on glossy paper. The word “fables” is carefully chosen; these are gentle, mystical adventures in the tradition of “magic realism” favored by many Latin American authors.
Franko is a young anthropomorphic lion adolescent living in the Atacama Desert of Chile at the “end of civilization on Earth”, with his slightly older lion friend Shin. The Atacama is known as the driest place on Earth, but as backpackers and other travelers will tell you, the deserts have their own special beauty. These six short fables display it with a quiet wonder.
Franko and Shin are lion farmers at the opposite ends of adolescence – Franko appears to be a thirteen-year-old, while the more irresponsible Shin appears about nineteen (and is addicted to gambling). Both embody the exuberance of youth. They and Mana, the ghost of Shin’s grandmother, are the only recurring characters. Mana is the voice of wisdom who tempers the rashness and naïvete of the two youngsters.
The six fables are:
The Fable of Mana and the Treasure
The Fable of Cobrafrog, the Merchant
The Fable of Megaboss
The Fable of the Host of Midnight
The Fable of the Slave Master
The Fable of Behemo, the Hermit
Despite having only three recurring characters, these six fables hint at a richness of Franko’s and Shin’s desert society. Cobrafrog, the Traveling Merchant, brings a wealth of exotic devices such as a mighty tornado in a small box. The currency hinted at in this fable would tempt any numismatist: platinum squares, golden circles, silver triangles, and copper rhombuses. Megaboss, the water buffalo foreman of the saltpeter factory, and Alister, his jackal assistant, run a huge foundry that seems to consist only of simple animal labor (a llama shoveller), but which makes marvelous mechanical horses. There is an invading horde “that once every thousand years instills fear and desperation” – or are they just ghosts from civization’s past? There is Behemo, the Hermit, searching for his ancestors – a look at Behemo is worth the price of the book by itself.
Franko: Fábulas de la Última Tierra was originally published in Chile in 2013. Sofawolf Press felt that it deserved a high-quality English-language edition, and in early 2016 they ran a Kickstarter campaign for $6,000 for this purpose. They got $14,268 from 269 backers. Sofawolf has added three earlier black-&-white stories with the additional money. The hardcover is a beautiful little book. The trade paperback, with french flaps, is as close to the hardcover as possible.
The back-cover blurb says, “Recommended for readers 7 to 700 years old.” An excellent recommendation.
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