Written by Erika Jarvis.

After years of drawing in airports, hotels and cafes, Fafi's long-awaited book The Carmine Vaultis releasing this month. It is the first full-length comic from the glamorous French street artist, whose beloved brush-graffiti figures "the Fafinettes" have made her one of the biggest stars to come from the graffiti subculture. Often seen as the alluring motifs for hot-ticket collabs with companies like adidas and M.A.C., in The Carmine Vault Fafi has given her characters their own fully fleshed narrative, set in the fantastical habitat of the same name.


It's funny how this comic is so bad-behavior oriented, whereas in life I'm more wise, and attracted to nice people.


A purplish, pock-marked planet in a far-off solar system, the Carmine Vault is a land complete with its own language and science. In the Vault, Fafinettes don't die, they alcanize, a chemical reaction which occurs when tears of pain mix with their saliva. They sit around and play games while sipping Yazoub, a potent liquor made from cognac and the juice of the native pulche fruit. Time is measured in "cycles." In her first comic, Fafi has established the natural laws of a whole new universe, one which she says is still expanding.

"I am thinking about developing more and more," she says on a Facebook chat from Paris. "A nature more specific, and also getting more into behaviors. Not like a guide, because I think explaining things is a lack of charm. [But] you, the reader has to understand what's going on, so I consider this comic a great first step."

The first story to be brought forth from the Vault is that of Birtak, a sensitive four-legged creature who dreams of joining the ballet. The problem is that he's tangled up with the wrong crowd, "the Hululus," alcoholic mean girls who love to bring the pain. Fans of Fafi's sweeter work might be surprised to learn what a violent place the Carmine Vault actually is. "It's funny how this comic is so bad-behavior oriented," she reasons, "whereas in life I'm more wise, and attracted to nice people." Perhaps bad girls are more interesting, I offer. "More interesting to draw," she agrees. "Less to live with. Haha."

Bad girls are also a hell of a lot funnier. On their fiend-like search for more Yazoub, the swaggy Hululus speak a sassy, adults-only vernacular which Fafi calls the "the slang-fafinetto." Is this the official language of the Carmine Vault? "No, but it's a good question since I was thinking of inventing a new language for the comic," she says. She explains how you'd have to get a kind of dictionary with it, "sort of hieroglyphs" to understand—then stops herself. "But I am speaking about The Carmine Vault 2, and 1 is not out yet!"

While there is clearly much that Fafi has yet to explore, her first foray into storytelling is a good one. The Carmine Vault is a poppin' adventure-love story, riddled with beatdowns, dark humor, and of course, big-eyed babes. But by far the best part is the chance to take an immersive walk in the world that, untilnow, she has only been able to hint at. Fafi fans will really love The Carmine Vault. Once inside, the door
slams shut behind you.

© Fafi, Fafi: The Carmine Vault, Rizzoli, 2012.