As imaginary friends go, Panther, the star of Belgian artist and illustrator Brecht Evens’ fantastic new comic book, is a breath of fresh air.
Erudite, suave and an excellent dancer, the self-styled ‘crown prince’ of Pantherland appears just at the right time for young Christine, grieving as she is for Lucy, her recently-deceased cat.
Yet Panther turns out to be more than a feline shoulder to cry on – he’s a magician, a trickster, a genius at shadow-puppetry, a big furry cat to both play with and talk to. And talk he does.
But is all he tells of Pantherland true? And what has happened to Bonzo, Christine’s beloved toy dog, last seen making his way down the stairs? As Evens’ tale increasingly darkens, it becomes clear that things certainly aren’t all that they might first appear.
The book is not only beautifully designed and illustrated throughout, but Evens’ take on grief and parental concern, envisaged in Christine’s doting father, makes for some particularly touching moments.
As a book about the turbulence of growing up – and the oscillation between dreams and nightmares – Evens’ treats the subject with care and sensitivity. And in Panther, he’s conjured up one of the great characters of contemporary comics.