THE OVEN, a graphic narrative by Sophie Goldstein, reviewed by Brian Burmeister • Cleaver Magazine
Recently nominated for the Cartoonist Studio’s Prize for Best Print Comic of the Year, The Oven is a wonderful example of character-driven science fiction. In what might take a typical reader less than one minute, author/illustrator Sophie Goldstein quickly, yet carefully, establishes both the setting and a compelling story. From the very first page, Goldstein introduces the reader to a dystopian world in which futuristic cities are shielded from an ultra-lethal sun by protective domes. On the same page, one sees the protagonists, Syd and Eric, a young couple, leave that society for the communal, technology-free living of “the Oven, AKA ‘Babyville,’” a small settlement far from government’s reach—a community of people hoping to find simple pleasure from simple living. With displays of daily life in the Oven, Goldstein focuses her narrative around themes of family and freedom. The couple’s reasons for leaving their lives in the city quickly emerge and their quest for the life they have dreamed of is swiftly met with unforeseen obstacles. Life in the new world of the Oven isn’t easy. Syd and Eric find that “freedom isn’t free”—that, whether raising children or farming for sustenance, it requires hard work and commitment.