A panel from The Oven.
  • Sophie Goldstein
  • A panel from The Oven

The serene palette of rich orange, gray, and black and white in Sophie Goldstein’s new dystopian graphic novel The Oven contrasts sharply with its setting in a dismal future where young couples are subject to government-policed population control.

Protagonists Sydney and Eric—virtually unadorned in the award-winning creator’s clean line work—abandon city life for a place that doesn’t restrict procreation. They land on a desert commune where people farm and cook just after sunrise and engage in humorous but charged dialogue about how the sun burns their skin off or the synthetic, hormone-filled food in the city that causes infertility.

The Oven falls in line with Goldstein’s ongoing exploration of how history’s perpetual subjugation of women plays out in primitive, postcivilization settings. In “Coyote,” which appeared in the now defunct comics tablet magazine Symbolia, a woman’s journey toward a feminist utopia yields only peril, while in “The Good Wife,” an Aesop’s fable adaptation (reprinted in The Best American Comics 2013), Goldstein substitutes two lovers for natural elements in order to unpack the short distance between passion and cruelty.

There’s often no space between panels on The Oven‘s tightly organized pages. The constricted framework parallels Eric’s slow-brewing feelings of confinement and longing for his urban past. The ground feels shaky under Sydney. “Do you ever wonder that this is all kind of . . . regressive?” she asks the camp’s mother figure. Multiple white moons hover in the carrot-hued horizon: daylight eventually proves as fleeting as any trace of solace in the strange patch of desert in Goldstein’s comic.

Sophie Goldstein will be reading from The Oven on Friday, July 10, at 7 PM at Quimby’s, 1854 W North, 773-342-0910, quimbys.com.