Pig-girl Leslie is approaching twenty five, single, and frustrated. Disturbed by her erotic dreams of a wolf-man, Leslie also has to battle with the millennial worries of low pay, job insecurity and room mates.
Originally published in Italy by Panini Comics in 2016, Mirka Andolfo’s Unnatural is now being reprinted by Image. It’s an unashamedly sexy story of love and forbidden desire.
Scantily-clad anthropomorphised animals aren’t unusual on the internet. But although it might initially appear to be a sleazy and slightly questionable erotica, Unnatural is instead a smart and sexy satire. There’s a depth to the story, as the darker side of Leslie’s universe is gradually revealed. This is a world where inter-species relationships are forbidden, with a totalitarian government eager to push everyone into a union it regards as acceptable and “normal”.
With Leslie’s interspecies fantasies deemed unnatural, she struggles to reconcile her feelings with society’s expectations. With singles being heavily taxed, same sex relationships forbidden and everyone being pushed into produced babies, Leslie must hide how she feels. She also struggles with a job she hates, and a serious lack of personal space.
Whilst it might be a bit bawdy in places, Unnatural plays with the idea of sexuality to make it’s point. In one scene, Leslie is squeezed into a revealing uniform as part of her job as a waitress. Despite the deliberately raunchy panels, it’s followed by a sleazy boss and a commentary on the objectification of women. Unnatural balances expectation with brutal reality of how women are mistreated.
Adolfo’s artwork is excellent throughout, with a soft-edged, dreamy quality, even when the backgrounds and small details suggest a much darker world. Colouring, from Gianluca Papi, is mostly pinkish soft pastels, other than an educational Saturday-morning-cartoon middle section, which educates us on the dangers of “unnatural choices”.
Leslie is a smart and interesting character, familiar despite her pigginess, but if there’s a weakness to this opening issue it’s that other characters aren’t developed very far. We get a glimpse of a best friend’s life and the dangers he faces everyday, but without any real depth. A room mate appears briefly to interrupt Leslie’s fantasies, but is a blank canvas otherwise.
Unnatural is smart and funny and sexy. Sensual and intelligent, it’s a unique dystopia and a biting satire on how society intrudes into personal lives, and regards some love as unacceptable.