British comics creator Isabel Greenberg's Encyclopedia of Early Earth is a deceptively simple, lyrically told set of interlocking stories of creation, hubris, magic and destiny. It's pieced together from bits of the Old Testament, a little Greek mythology, and some of this and that, told as a series of stories that nest and dovetail with one another in a way that is at once unpretentious and straightforward, but also complex, meaty, and ultimately very satisfying.
The hero if Encyclopedia is a Nord storyteller from the north pole who was once divided into three bodies by his adoptive (and fractious) mothers. Having been reunited by the shaman his mothers retained to perform his initial division, he discovers that a tiny piece of his soul has escaped and flown elsewhere in Early Earth. All agree that the soul-fragment — without which he cannot feel whole and at peace — is somewhere in the southern half of Early Earth, which is a mirror image of the north. So he sets off in his boat for a series of adventures that take him to the south pole and his true love, where his romance is both cursed and blessed by the gods, who have a complicated relationship with him.
Throughout, the storyteller tells his stories, meets other storytellers, and has his story told, and the themes from these stories wrap around each other as a series of simple variations that build to a crescendo of marvellous richness.
I've featured a little of Greenberg's work here before — I still love her fake shelves and have one in my office — but this is on a whole other level from those pieces. I recommend Encyclopedia of Early Earth without reservation.