George, a New Yorker, born and bred, decides to leave the city and move to Oaxaca, Mexico, for a sabbatical year with his wife Samantha.
Samantha was born in Mexico and this trip is meant to reconcile her with her past. Also, she is trying to finish a book and have a child, all in one go. George is an artist that has forgotten how to relate with painting, something he used to love, he is not so keen on parenting, and has mixed feelings about the entire journey.
In Oaxaca, political and personal events will shake them and eventually will force a turn in their lives.
The adventure also follows the annual migration of the monarch butterfly, known to fly thousands of miles to reach its mating destination (from Canada to Mexico, something represented throughout the book). Mysteriously, the voyage of the butterfly links the story of the couple and becomes a key element for the outcome.
Peter Kuper, best known for taking over Spy vs. Spy for Mad magazine, lived in Oaxaca from 2006 to 2007, so many of the political issues and everyday details are well depicted. George finds himself fascinated by the local insects, and while photographing them he meets an ex-photo journalist who becomes his best pal throughout the year.
The Monarch butterfly bit seems unlikely until the end, then it all ties up nicely and sums up the entire experience.
I was delighted by the end, so there will be no spoilers here. Also, some of the most interesting tourist sites and views of the town are represented, as is the political upheaval Kuper saw, also present in his earlier work: Diario de Oaxaca: a Sketch book journal of two years in Mexico.
Ruins is on sale September 22.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this graphic novel for review purposes.
Featured image by Peter Kuper