Magical History Tour: The Plague: History of a Pandemic
The fifth in the translated Magical History Tour series is particularly timely.
The Plague: History of a Pandemic, is, as are the others in the series, written by Fabrice Erre and illustrated by Sylvain Savoia. Annie explains various outbreaks of the historical plague, including the Black Death, and pandemics to her younger brother Nico.
Annie lays out various transmission factors — trade routes, conflicts, population concentration — and tells her brother about people’s fear, the huge death rates, and the need for isolation and quarantine. I was particularly interested in the pages about people said to have died of plague. Annie explains that modern doctors think some of those cases might have been something else, because we have more medical knowledge now, and illnesses with the same symptoms can be confused for each other. It’s a reminder that received wisdom changes, and context matters.
The two characters, in their modern clothes, are drawn into historical images, reinforcing their nature as observers of the terrible events described. They’re untouched by the death and desolation, which reflects the reader’s perspective as well. Some of these numbers are incomprehensible, with hundreds of thousands of people dying.
The myths and false beliefs people had, including those stigmatizing particular groups of people, might be considered old-fashioned, until we realize that our modern society is similarly ignoring scientific knowledge in favor of myths. I wish more of a definite connection of that sort had been stated, as it’s too easy to think “we know so much better than they did”, but that doesn’t appear until the end material.
As with the other volumes, after the comic, there are illustrated text pages with more information. These include short descriptions of other pandemics (including the Spanish Flu, AIDS, and our current COVID one), a handful of biographical sketches, and a short history of the discovery of bacteria. A final afterword by Papercutz Editor-in-Chief Jim Salicrup describes his experience with COVID, including his recovery from it and the loss of a good friend who died from it.
Magical History Tour: The Plague is due out September 28 and can be preordered now from your local comic shop with Diamond code JUL21 1843. (The publisher provided an advance digital review copy.)