Kasper Salamandre is a young man who has recently lost his hero, his father, to a terrible accident. Moping about and acting out, his mother thinks it best if he were to live with his grandfather for a bit. However, it is on the other side of the border, where only The Emperor is praised. Art, music, even beauty like seeds and flowers can be contraband. I. N. J. Culbard’s Salamandre is the story of one family and what they do to do a little something to defy the big something that is around every corner, hiding in plain sight, could even be a neighbor, friend, or even family member.
With feelings of The Iron Curtain, Nazi regime, and science fiction rulers, we follow secret police, officials less than honest, grandfather and grandson relationship and how a local woman (also an artist) helps wake up the piece of Kasper that is missing. Occasionally Kasper, though he is almost 12, acts much younger. He trusts too easily, talks too much, and does not always think things through and acts before he should. But then again, that is the point. Kasper does not realize what life is really like, how freedom is precious and how some people would do anything to better themselves within a system that only wants to keep people down.
I really did not have one favorite character, as everyone has something about them that fell flat. But overall, it is an interesting character study. The artwork itself fits the tone, not overly expressive or colorful, simple, but not simplistic, is traditional slice-of-life graphic novel work. Due to some language, and some context at least strong 12 and up can read, though I lean towards at least 14 to adult. Due to the lack of “real action” (though there is a fight towards the end), it is not for everyone.