Tagged: 246 Different Kinds of Cheese

Mickey Mouse: Zombie Coffee by Régis Loisel

Mickey Mouse: Zombie Coffee by Régis Loisel

Formats come with expectations and assumptions – not always warranted, but they’re along for the ride already.

For example: Mickey Mouse: Zombie Coffee , a bande desinée by Régis Loisel, originally published by Éditions Glénat in France in 2016 in (waves hands) some format, possibly within Le Journal du Mickey , is laid out like a newspaper comic. Four panels across, most of the time, about four times wider than tall, two strips to a page, 137 strips total.

As an American comics reader, on first glance I assumed this was a little less than half a year of dailies in some newspaper, and my thought was “who knew there was a regular Mickey Mouse strip in French newspapers?”

But I think that’s wrong. I think these appeared in that magazine, weekly – maybe one at a time, maybe two or three on a page each issue – and that the strip format is either an artistic choice or a very specific slot in that magazine that might look like an American daily, but is a different thing.

So I’m left wondering about the rhythm of this story: was it just one strip a week? That’s pretty slow for an adventure strip – though a lot of webcomics are on a similar pace, these days. It might explain why a lot of these are pretty wordy – you need to remind the reader of what’s going on. Or, to be positive, perhaps this ran in a really large space, and these strips are shrunken a bit for this book publication.

In any case: it’s a Mickey Mouse story, of the old school. The time is during the Great Depression, the place is Mouseton (presumably USA, but unspecified), and our hero and his friends are the downtrodden, pushed-around little guys of the early days rather than the fancy suburbanite or corporate icon of more recent years.

Mickey and Horace Horsecollar are looking for work, with no luck. Mr. Ruff, “the foreman” (seemingly the only way to get hired in Mouseton) keeps finding excuses not to hire them. So the two decide to run off with their girlfriends (Minnie and Clarabelle Cow) to go camping and fishing for a while, bunking with Donald Duck on a lake somewhere, because “camping is free.”

That takes up about the first quarter of the story – they return to Mouseton to find things have changed. A rich developer, Rock Fueler, is turning their neighborhood into a golf course. The potential good news is that means jobs, plus money for the houses he’s buying. But of course the capitalist is the villain, so his plans are much more nefarious than simply building something.

Fueler has employed two chemists to create massively addictive “Zomba” coffee, which he then distributed free to all of the citizens of Mouseton. The men, zombified by coffee, work almost for free, and the women and children get packed off to a new housing project on the outskirts of town. And the chemists are working on further foodstuffs, to squeeze the last few cents out of the Mousetonians.

Even Goofy, left behind, is now a coffee zombie, though Horace and Mickey do save and reform him.

And then our heroes fight back, against the nearly overwhelming forces arrayed against them. Pegleg Pete is one of Fueler’s top henchmen, as of course he must be, so he does a lot of the immediate attacking, sneaking, and other evil deeds. There are chases and fights and confrontations, and various bits of comedy along the way – for example, the chemist’s food is so seductive that noseplugs are required to resist its tantalizing aroma, so the big end scene is played out almost entirely with people speaking with those stuffed-nose voices.

I read this digitally, and I think that means I saw it somewhat smaller than the printed book – I hope so, since it’s full of detail and life and energy, and a larger format would make it a lot better. I haven’t seen Loisel’s work before, but he’s clearly great at this style, and has had a long and respected career making things that mostly haven’t been translated into English.

It’s a classic Mickey story told well for a modern audience – my understanding is that the French audience is mostly middle-graders, but there’s no reason it needs to be limited to that age.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Blue Is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh

Blue Is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh

I shouldn’t be the one to tell you about this book: I’m the wrong gender, the wrong orientation, the wrong nationality, the wrong generation. So don’t trust me.

Blue Is the Warmest Color  is a graphic novel by Julie Maroh – that’s what the edition I read says; I see indications that the author goes by Jul Maroh now and is transgender and nonbinary, which adds another wrinkle to the story. But this presents itself as fiction, even if, like anyone’s first big story in public, we suspect there are autobiographical elements in the mix. (It clearly can’t be entirely autobiographical, for reasons that should be obvious.)

Maroh is French; so is her cast. I found the story to be in a older mode than I expected: a frame story, coming out amid self-loathing, the clear tragedy of older gay/lesbian stories. It wasn’t nearly as 21st century as I was hoping from a book published in 2010 and translated in 2013 (and turned into a movie in French the same year). It’s not my world, not my community, but I thought we were past the sad dead LGBTQ people.

The main character is Clementine, but we start with her partner, Emma, after Clem’s death. Emma is retrieving Clem’s diaries from her partner’s parents. It’s not really clear how old everyone is, but we immediately dive out of the frame story into the main narrative, and the frame is just used for occasional (and I’d say, unnecessary) commentary. The frame is distancing at best: a more confident creator, later in their career, probably would not have made that choice.

The bulk of Blue is Clem’s story, starting on her fifteenth birthday in the mid-90s. She gets her first boyfriend, Thomas, is focused on school, has dreams of her future – the whole standard deal. She also sees a lesbian couple on the street, and has a strong, unexpected reaction to one of the women, with bright blue hair.

That’s Emma. We already know Clem ends up with Emma; there’s no mystery or surprise there; the frame story has eliminated that possibility. So I won’t run through the plot details, of how Clem denies she could possibly be lesbian, how wrong and unnatural and strange that is, how all of her friends (except one gay man) abandon her eventually. I said this was in the old mode: all that is familiar.

On the other hand, Clem does meet Emma more seriously, and they become first friends and then lovers. Emma is nearly a decade older and already in a relationship, with the forbidding Sabine, both of which would be warning signs in a more modern, conventional romance. But I think Maroh doesn’t mean any of it that way: this is a world where lesbians still live mostly quietly, out of sight, and young lesbians need to be introduced to that world and find a way in; they can’t just declare themselves and be accepted by the wider world.

(I may be naïve in thinking the other is true, now or at any time, in my country or this one. Again: don’t trust me.)

Blue covers two or three years in depth, and then jumps forward a decade to see Clem settled as a schoolteacher approaching thirty, to set up for the inevitable tragic end. There’s no intrinsic reason for this to be a tragedy; that’s unrelated to any of the main plot.

I would have preferred a happier romance; I was expecting one from the cover and the publication date. I’d like to think we’ve had enough tragedies about loves that can’t speak their names, and that most of us are happy to name those loves out loud, even if they’re not the ways we love. Again, I may be naïve.

But this is the story Maroh wanted to tell. It’s a personal, specific story, and I believe the world and the people. Maroh keeps it mostly monochrome, in soft greys and off-blacks, with blue as the one pop of color, making Emma almost luminous, especially in the early days. Like a beacon, like a signpost to a better world for Clem, if only she’s able to follow that sign and join that world – as she does, for a time.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

An Enchantment by Christian Durieux

An Enchantment by Christian Durieux

There is a long-running – it may have ended; I don’t know – series of graphic novels about the Louvre museum, officially licensed by that museum. Each one is separate, a different idea from a different creator or team. It started in 2005 with Nicolas De Crecy’s Glacial Period , and I’ve seen a few more, mostly years ago: The Museum Vaults, On the Odd Hours , The Sky Over the Louvre , (There’s what may be a comprehensive list of the series on Goodreads ; I note that half or more of them have never been translated into English.)

I have a weakness for bizarre publishing projects and quirky brand extensions, so I’m going to try to find all of the books in this series that have been published in English. I’ll go in order if I can, so the next one up was An Enchantment  from 2011, by creator Christian Durieux.

It takes place during some kind of celebration at the museum. We see uniformed staff bustle about, setting gala tables, and an old man in a suit quietly grab two bottles of wine and sneak away. We learn, before too long, that the celebration is for him: he’s some sort of political leader, who has just retired.

We don’t know his name. He does cast some scorn in the direction of a certain leader of Italy who I’m sure is meant to be Berlusconi, so my guess is that this is Jacques Chirac, or a transmuted fictional figure with some aspects in common with Chirac.

That doesn’t really matter: like the other books in this series, An Enchantment is symbolic and allusive and backwards-looking, a meditation and a dialogue rather than a book driven by plot.

And the dialogue this unnamed man has is, of course, with an equally unnamed gorgeous young woman who he meets as he sneaks away from his own fete to explore the museum. They appreciate art, talk about their own lives to some degree, and engage in the typical French philosophizing about life.

Along the way, Durieux has the opportunity to drop in about two dozen major works that are in the actual Louvre, and the handy backmatter tells us in exactly which galleries they can be found, so we could retrace this journey if ever we find ourselves in Paris.

Durieux makes nice pictures and constructs strong pages, though I find his philosophizing somewhat less compelling. (I’ve seen a lot of philosophizing in my day, and this isn’t terribly distinctive or unique – it’s yet more gather ye rosebuds while ye may.) Within the context of the series, this is fairly straightforward and normal, though: quite French, as is to be expected.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Glacial Period by Nicolas De Crecy

Glacial Period by Nicolas De Crecy

There’s a odd collection of graphic novels inspired by the Louvre museum, which has been running longer than I thought and has more books in it than I expected. Each bande dessinee is entirely separate; they’re all by different people with different plots, and seem to only have in common that they all involve the Louvre in some way.

There’s a list of the series on Goodreads; I don’t know if it’s comprehensive, but it’s fairly long, at least.

And I read a few of the early books years ago: The Sky Over the Louvre  by Yslaire and Carriere in 2014, On the Odd Hours  by Liberge in 2010, and The Museum Vaults by Matthieu in 2008. I don’t remember any of them well enough to compare.

Today, I just read Nicolas De Crecy’s Glacial Period , the very first book in the “series.” It was originally published in French in 2005, translated into English by Joe Johnson the next year, and the current edition (no indications if anything is new or different, and I doubt it, having worked in publishing) came out in 2014.

My guess is that all of the books in this series are about “the power of art” pretty centrally, however each creator defines that. This one is, eventually, though it takes a long time to get there. It also has a pretty major fantasy element that just pops up almost two-thirds of the way through the book, which is somewhat surprising.

Glacial Period takes place – so it says – about a thousand years in the future, when a glacier covers Europe and has wiped out all memory of the previous civilization. This seems multiply unlikely – that there would be a new and completely unrelated civilization at the same tech level so soon after such a crash, that everything would be lost so comprehensively, that everyone would still be speaking European languages and seeming to be European people after that crash, and that what’s described late in the book as global warming would lead to whopping great glaciers in the first place.

Maybe global warming led to a series of devastating wars that killed most of the Global North really quickly, then the few survivors (perhaps in Brazil?) actively destroyed all records of the North, created some super-science cooling device that worked too well, changed their language to English, and went into a prolonged social crash, only to emerge recently? Oh, and bioengineered a race of talking dogs along the way, because why not?

The talking dogs are a definite, by the way: we see them, and one, Hulk (named after one of the important gods of the pre-glacial civilization, ha ha ha) is a major character here.

Also, there are a couple of panels that seem to imply how the catastrophe happened, only they make no sense. First, everyone got fat and lazy in the beginning of the 21st century. Then, global warming happened, really fast! (With a picture of the glacial landscape?) Only a few people “resisted” and fled South. There apparently was no one already living in the South to which they fled.

Frankly, I’m ignoring those panels, since they make no goddamn sense. I’m assuming they’re wrong somehow within the story, for a reason I didn’t figure out yet.

Anyway, there’s a scientific expedition across the trackless icy wastes of the forgotten northern continent – it is so forgotten than Hulk finds a coin marked “2 Euro” and this is a major discovery of their name for themselves. [1] There is some tedious interpersonal bullshit that doesn’t go anywhere or mean anything, but gives some slight characterization to a vague love triangle among the humans. (There’s one woman, whose father apparently financed and created this expedition, and the requisite one intellectual and one man of action both desire her.) There are some other characters – a few other humans, some dogs like Hulk – none of whom are important.

It’s not clear what this expedition is looking for, or how it’s looking. They seem to be wandering aimlessly, hoping to find something sticking out of the ice. They have no maps or documents from the Before Times, as previously noted.

Luckily, the author is on their side, so they do see a building sticking up out of the ice. No points to guess what that building is. Due to shifting ice and the needs of plot, the party is split, with Hulk alone deep within the halls of what he doesn’t yet know is a museum, and the woman and man of action similarly separate elsewhere in the structure for no good reason.

We also get a lot of panels of attempted anthropology based on the art – mostly a Delacroix gallery, I think – which is meant to be humorously wrong-headed, and gives De Crecy the opportunity to pop in a whole bunch of famous art into his book. (This seems to be the real purpose of the whole series, frankly.) This section is where we learn that our new civilization has absolutely no records of the vanished Europeans, which frankly seems completely disjoint with the fact that an entire museum of priceless artworks is still sitting, undamaged by time, under a protective snowball.

Anyway, then the fantasy element kicks in. I guess I have to explain it, though I should warn you that it’s just as random and bizarre as everything else in Glacial Period. You see, all of the art is alive. Or the spirits of the things painted live through the art? Something vague and muddy in between those two points, I think. All the art comes to life to talk to Hulk, to give the potted history that he so desperately needs, and to tell him that he has to save them from the imminent destruction of the whole museum.

Because all of this art can survive without any damage whatsoever for a thousand years, but there’s going to be a big ice-earthquake any minute now that will crush the Louvre and anything unlucky enough to be left within it.

Does Hulk do something unlikely and weird to save his entire expedition and all of the priceless artworks of the Louvre, leading them to safety across the ice? Of course. Does he do this in any way where the reader can figure out what is going to come out the other end of the saving motion? No. Not in the slightest.

Glacial Period is a weird book with muddy colors and baffling dialogue, set in a world that would contradict itself a dozen times if it made any sense at all. It is entertaining to read and full of great art by famous dead people, but I didn’t find it plausible for more than two or three panels at a time. Your mileage may vary.

[1] Belatedly, I’m coming to realize the core issue of Glacial Period: it’s of that classic genre in which only Europe is important, only Europe matters, and the world is essentially a blank canvas for European people to make their marks on. I’m more familiar with the derivative American version of that, where all the same but only European-descended Americans, who have kept the true germ plasm of the race alive within them, do all of those colonialist things and are the true lords of All Creation. (It’s bullshit either way, of course; I’m just pointing out the two strains, and maybe why I didn’t notice the older one as quickly.)

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Ordinary Victories, Vol. 3: Precious Things by Manu Larcenet

Ordinary Victories, Vol. 3: Precious Things by Manu Larcenet

The first time this book was translated into English, a decade and a half ago, the title came out as “What Is Precious.” This time, in a translation by Mercedes Claire Gilliom that I think I found more colloquial than Joe Johnson’s back in 2008, the title is Precious Things .

What difference does that make? The first has the echo of a question; the second is more clearly in line with the titles of the previous books – Ordinary Victories , Trivial Quantities . Both of those are plausible things to want in your translated title, but you can’t have both. Translation is a game of choices: of veering closer to the exact meaning in the original language, which can be more formal or clunky in the new one, or of aiming for more colloquial expressions in the target language, which can deform the original words.

Every translation is its own artistic work, separated inexorably from the original. Each translation is closer to the original than a sequel, but still a separate thing, as languages are separate things. And those of us who don’t read the original languages are left like the blind men and the elephant, grabbing pieces, feeling differences, trying to decide what it was originally, in the land of its birth.

Ordinary Victories is a semi-autobiographical bande dessinée series by Manu Larcenet, about the purpose of art and life (among other things), so those concerns are in the book – and they may tend to circle when a reader encounters it again, in a new translation. Gilliom uses a very naturalistic English here; I noted that Johnson seemed to be trying to stay as close as possible to the French grammar and meaning back in 2008.

I read in English, so I like colloquial language I can read. Selfishly, I prefer this newer translation. (It was published, digitally, in 2016 by Europe Comics, a collective mostly designed to get other publishers in the Anglosphere to publish comics from continental Europe.)

Speaking of translation: the series title in French is Le combat ordinaire. I gather that’s a French idiom; it means something like “the everyday battle.” You could hang a whole essay on the difference there – the French focus on the fight, the American need to be assured of a victory.

There are no assured victories here. Marco Louis is a thirtyish photographer with a serious anxiety disorder and a career he’s mostly successfully shifting from war photography to artsier work, with a gallery show of dockworkers turning into a book in the course of this story. Marco Louis is Manu Larcenet, to some degree, and his battles, I think, echo those of his creator – but how close the echoes are, and what the echoes bounce off is a much more tangled question.

Marco is also navigating what seems to be his first really serious, long-term relationship here, with a woman named Emily. In this book, she makes it clear she wants children: she’ll give Marco some time to come to terms with that, but it’s not a point for negotiation. She will have children, either with him or without.

At the same time, Marco is dealing with the recent death of his father: visiting his now-widowed mother, cleaning out a workshop, reading a diary of his father’s that isn’t as personal as he wanted, arguing with the brother who is also upset after the death.

As with the first two books, this is a slice-of-life story with serious depths, a story that is much more constructed and organized than it may seem. Marco is Manu, but he’s not just Manu, and this is probably not “what happened to Manu” transmuted from comics to photography – it’s a memoir-ish story influenced by Larcenet’s life, that comments on or look at many other aspects of life as it goes on.

It’s a deep and resonant book, and I’m glad I’m reading Ordinary Victories in order this time, and equally glad to read it in Gilliom’s language. This would be a good book to read any day you need to face your own combat ordinaire.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

In Shadows, Book One by Mallie and Hubert

In Shadows, Book One by Mallie and Hubert

I may be spoiled. It’s been a while since I hit the end of a graphic novel (or bande dessinee, in this case), realized it was the kind of “Part One” that doesn’t have a real ending, and couldn’t get the next book immediately.

But In Shadows, Book One , by Mallié and Hubert – in best French-comics fashion, each only uses one name – is a 2022 publication – even in its original French, it was a 2021 publication – and the second volume was only published in English nine days ago as I write this. That second volume is not yet available in the app where I read the first book (Hoopla ; ask if your library uses it because it is The Bomb), but I’m hoping it will turn up eventually.

For now, though, what I have is the beginning of a story that is not complete yet. It’s an epic fantasy, so that’s appropriate: no matter what the medium, stories of knights and magic always seem to break into multiple volumes that end on cliffhangers.

This is a generic medieval world: we see one kingdom, which seems small, and a lot of mostly empty countryside. (Tolkien knew that medieval life required a lot of peasants doing agriculture all over the place, but rarely mentioned it; his followers have mostly ignored those peasants for atmosphere.) The disgraced knight Arzhur, now working as a mercenary, is given a chance at redemption by three creepy old women: if he rescues the princess Islen from the monsters holding her captive at the remote Black Castle and returns her to her father, King Goulven, he will be returned to the status of knight and his disgrace wiped out.

Arzhur does not stop to think that “the crones” are unlikely to be able to bind a King, and even less likely to be his official envoys. He accepts a locket with a picture of the princess, and a sword “for slaying monsters,” and does what they ask.

They of course have ulterior motives. The princess is not actually a captive, and the “monsters” may be dark and creepy, but they are friendly to her. The three crones actually want to take Islen to her mother – they declare themselves to be Mae, Nae, and Tae, her “dear old nannies.” Islen seems to be even more opposed to that than she was to the killing of her monstrous companions, so Arzhur drives off the old women. He decides he might as well stick to the original plan and deliver her to her father, since he doesn’t really have any other options.

Arzhur perhaps does not have much experience with magic: it’s unclear how common it is in this world. We learn that Islen’s mother, Meliren, is some sort of magical being (a naga, maybe), that she married King Goulven somehow (I would be very interested in knowing how; it seems unlikely), and that they were deliriously happy up until the point Meliren turned super-evil for no obvious reason.

Islen, also, is expected to turn super-evil at some point, which is why she self-exiled to the Black Castle.

After his first wife turned super-evil and was also banished far away, Goulven remarried – I guess you can remarry without a divorce in this world, if your first wife is a super-evil monster; that’s handy – to a normal woman whose name I can’t find poking through the book. She now has an infant son, and in the ways of all medieval courts is at least mildly intriguing to make sure her son will be the heir, not Islen.

You can imagine things do not go well when Islen returns to her father’s court. Arzhur is not immediately reinstated as a knight, to begin with. The crones are sneaking around the periphery – they’ve already driven off Arzhur’s squire Youenn by this point – whispering to various people to shape events the way they want.

I won’t detail all of the events of the back half of the book, but suffice it to say that things are not going at all in Arzhur’s favor and Islen is not doing much better. And, in the end, there is a big climax and a fight, leading to the (lack of an) ending.

In Shadows is creepy and atmospheric. It moves quickly, and mostly answers its own questions. There is some generic-fantasy stuff cluttering up the background, and I suspect not all of it was entirely thought through, but it’s all things you would expect in any medieval fantasy, in prose or comics. There are secrets still untold, but that’s what a Book Two is for – we can start with what, exactly, caused Arzhur’s disgrace, which is clearly A Story and we have not learned it yet. It also looks great: I believe Mallié is the artist, and Mallié does excellent work here.

For anyone looking for a relatively dark epic fantasy story in comics form, this is a good one: check it out. But know that it is not complete; I’m not sure if Book Two is the end, but I strongly suspect it will be.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Back to Basics, Vol. 4: The Flood by Jean-Yves Ferri and Manu Larcenet

Back to Basics, Vol. 4: The Flood by Jean-Yves Ferri and Manu Larcenet

Jumping in at volume four, you might want a Synopsis for Latecomers .

Or, perhaps, you might want to know what happened in earlier Back to Basics books. This is a humorous, more-or-less autobiographical comics series originally published in France in the early Aughts, soon after the events depicted. Cartoonist Manu Larcenet moved from Paris to a small rural town – Ravenelles is either the name of the town, or the house he lives in, or something like that – along with his partner Mariette, and these are stories of his adventures there, almost entirely in the traditional “rural people are stoic, laconic, and good at everything, while urbanites are neurotic and mostly useless” mode. There’s also an element of “I am a total goofball who is barely useful at anything, and my partner is a wonderful angel in everything,” which is also deeply traditional.

The credits are unclear, and the story of the creation of this series is played for laughs in this series, but my current theory, based on what we see in this book and the previous one, is that Larcenet told stories of his life to Jean-Yves Ferri, who then scripted them for Larcenet to draw. How much Larcenet altered those scripts in the drawing is an open question. For this US publication – in the mid-Teens, about a decade after the French originals – they were translated by Mercedes Claire Gilliom.

The substance of Back to Basics is ninety half-page comic strips in each book – think of them roughly as modern Sunday-comics size, sometimes one big panel, sometimes a 2×3 grid, sometimes somewhere in between – which each have their own setups and punch lines but tend to cluster into storylines and tell one general overall story for the book. 

This fourth book, The Flood , follows Real Life , Making Plans , and The Great World . It it, the baby born at the end of Great World is now a loudly squalling bundle most of the time, as babies often are. Her name is Capucine, but she mostly functions as a noisemaker and a burden here.

So this is largely the-baby-is-crying humor, with sidelines in how-can-I-get-away-from-the-crying-baby and don’t-make-any-noise-the-baby-is-sleeping and our-lives-are-suddenly-different, as usual. The other big event is implied by the title: there are massive rainstorms, which flood large portions of this countryside but don’t really affect Larcenet and family directly.

Oh, a rave does descend on their house because of the rain, I suppose. But it’s mostly baby stuff, which is entirely normal: babies are overwhelming and completely transform your life.

It’s fun and funny and continues the stories from the previous books – I don’t want to overstate “stories” here, since this really is something like a daily comic, with those kind of rhythms – and I’d recommend it for people who like that kind of thing.

One quirky thing: I don’t think this series is available to buy anywhere in the English language. I read it through the Hoopla app for libraries – which is full of stuff, and I hugely recommend it if your system uses it – and it’s also available on Kindle Unlimited, but there doesn’t seem to be a print edition or even a get-your-own-set-of-electrons version.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Ordinary Victories, Vol. 1 by Manu Larcenet

Ordinary Victories, Vol. 1 by Manu Larcenet

I may have this wrong, but here goes: Ordinary Victories is a series of four somewhat autobiographical bande dessinees by French cartoonist Manu Larcenet, originally published in French from 2003-2008 and published in two omnibuses in English soon afterward. The current English-language editions are back to being published individually, and seem to only be available in electronic formats. Their main character is a photojournalist named Marco Louis, and in the course of this first book he meets a woman, Emilie, who has a longer-term relationship with. (I also saw the second omnibus way back when, and wrote about it for ComicMix.)

At almost the same time – as in, starting the previous year, 2002, and putting out five volumes through 2008 – Larcenet also started a more specifically autobiographical series of books, Back to Basics, which he did with Jean-Yves Ferri. (See my posts on Back to Basics volumes one and two .) Basics features “Manu”, who looks almost exactly like “Marco” in Victories, but who is actually a cartoonist. Manu’s partner, “Mariette,” also bears a very close resemblance to “Emilie.”

I have the very strong suspicion that Victories is only very slightly less autobiographical than Basics, though it’s in a much more serious mode: this is more of a soul-searching “what should I do with my life” kind of story, while Basics is a lighter “moments from our crazy life out in a goofy rural town” story. I also think that Victories is largely about the years before Basics: they don’t tell the same story, or tell it in the same way, but, together, they tell two phases of Larcenet’s life.

So all that was in my head as I read this first book of Ordinary Victories : wondering how much of Manu is in Marco, and how much of Marco I could retroactively read into the Manu of Basics. But they are separate projects, in different genres: they may show complementary views of one life (or, maybe, they really don’t, and I’ve misunderstood), but they are still each their own things.

Marco is around thirty. He’s had a solid career, on the dangerous and unpleasant side of taking pictures professionally, but is on an extended break from it. He’s been seeing the same therapist for years, and thinks he’s “better” enough to stop now. But he’s starting to have panic attacks, for no obvious reason. This is the story of how he starts to move on from that moment – perhaps even more, he has to get to a point where he wants to move on. He has to see something in the future that he wants to change for, to move on from smoking “Big Fat Joints!” with his brother and thinking about how he used to work as a photographer.

Along the way, Victories is mostly a slice-of-life story. Marco sees his brother and his parents, he meets and starts dating Emilie, and he semi-regularly runs into an older man who lives near his new rural cottage. I’m not sure at all if this “rural” is the same “rural” as the Ravenelles of Basics – this could be two different ways of looking at basically the same move, or two stages of getting further away from the bustle of the big city. Or, again, they could be two different stories doing different things with some of the same material from Larcenet’s life.

By the end of Victories, Marco finally is ready to move out of his comfortable box. I won’t say why, or how – the way to learn that is to read the book. But he does it, and he does it in an interesting, believable way, and we the readers want to see Marco succeed: maybe not go back to being a photojournalist, but to find something to do with the rest of his life. And I plan to see how that plays out in the next book, and, probably, to re-read the back half of the series again a decade later to find out how Marco ends up and see how that all hangs together once I’ve started from the right place.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Back to Basics, Vol. 3: The Great World by Jean-Yves Ferri and Manu Larcenet

Back to Basics, Vol. 3: The Great World by Jean-Yves Ferri and Manu Larcenet

I like to think I’m flexible and adaptable – that I can figure out new things, incorporate them into my thinking, and move forward without a hitch. I’m probably wrong, though. We’re never the people we want to be or think we are.

Over the past few months, I’ve been reading more French comics by writer/artist teams – previously I’d mostly either read massive assemblages like Donjon  (which list in detail what each person does, since there are a lot of them) or single-creator works. And it’s taken me a surprisingly long time to internalize that the standard French (maybe Euro in general) credit sequence is artist-writer, the opposite of the US standard. (Colorists, on both continents, are named lower and lesser. Letterers and other folks, where they’re separate jobs, are even more variable.)

Which is to say, when the second volume of the Back to Basics series had a series of jokes based on the opposite of the actual credits of the book, I shrugged – either going along with the joke or mixed-up enough to think it was plausible – and presented it straight. (Or maybe I’m mixed up now. But I don’t think so.)

Anyway, this is a light-hearted bande dessinee series, written by Manu Larcenet – should I mention that all comics creators in the book have slightly altered, “funny” versions of their names? – and drawn by Jean-Yves Ferri, all about Larcenet’s move from Paris to the rural enclave of Ravenelles and his subsequent life there with his partner Mariette and the various colorful rural folk already living there. See my posts on the first and second books.

That brings us up to Back to Basics, Vol. 3: The Great World , in which the first Back to Basics book is finalized and published, in which Larcenet (or should I say “Larssinet;” see above) goes to a major comics show and wins “the Golden Eraser,” and in which Mariette is pregnant with their first child. (The baby is born right at the end, of course – Larcenet knows how to structure a book.)

As before, it’s all told in half-page comics, mostly six-panel grids, which tend to cluster to tell sequences. As I’ve said in the previous posts, it’s a lot like a daily comic in its rhythms and style of humor; as far as I know they weren’t serialized anywhere but they easily could have been.

This is amusing and fun, even if I seem to mostly write about which one of them does what job on the book. (That’s a silly side issue, but when you write about light humor, you grab onto anything specific and quirky to make it your shtick. Come to think of it, that’s not a bad summation of how Back to Basics works in the first place.)

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

The Grande Odalisque by Vives, Ruppert + Mulot

The Grande Odalisque by Vives, Ruppert + Mulot

This stylish thriller of a graphic novel (or bande dessinee) was made by three people: Bastien Vives, Florent Ruppert, and Jerome Mulot. The title of this post is styled as they are credited on the book: Vives / Ruppert + Mulot. All three are writer/artists. Ruppert and Mulot are a team who typically work together on all aspects of a story. I have no idea how they broke this down: if it were an American comic, that order would imply Vives was the writer and the other two the art team, but French credits often work in the reverse fashion.

So: the three of them did this, in some combination. If we can see a movie without worrying about what, exactly, a Director of Photography does, I think we can bring a similar equanimity to The Grand Odalisque , which is very much like a big-budget classy thriller movie on the page.

It’s a large-format album, appropriate for the style and the substance. I found the dialogue lettered just a bit too small and too lightly; take that into account, particularly if you intend to read this digitally.

It is a thriller, which means a lot of things: our heroines are amazingly competent, stunningly gorgeous, and massively flawed; the world is full of dangers, but not fatal ones; and hitting someone on the head or shooting them with a tranquillizer dart is a foolproof, immediate way of making that person go unconscious for exactly as long as you require, with no ill effects. Any readers who want more realism need to go elsewhere: this is Mission: Impossible-style action on the comics page.

Carole and Alex are high-level art thieves; we see them steal Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe from the Musee D’Orsay in the opening pages of the book. They squabble like an old married couple, and have been doing this for about a decade, even though they’re both still quite young – Carole is a few years older, but I don’t think she’s hit 30 yet. Again, in a realistic world they would be killed or captured very quickly; this is not in any way a realistic world.

They are gorgeous, they are stylish, they are the best at what they do. But they can’t do the next job alone – getting Ingres’ La Grande Odalisque out of the Louvre. So first they enlist an arms dealer to get them guns, and then a getaway driver, Sam, who becomes the third woman of their team – presumably going forward, since there’s already a second book.

After some minor complications – their arms dealer is captured by Mexican bandits, and to my surprise the solution isn’t “he’s already dead” (again: this is not a realistic story) but “let’s go, in bikinis, to slaughter the drug-lord and half-heartedly take over his operations” – it’s finally time for the big caper, which is as widescreen and cinematic as could be hoped, with exciting motorcycle chases and automatic-weapons fire and both helicopters and ultralight aircraft.

And if, in the end, the reader thinks “there’s no possibly way they could escape, in public, in the middle of Paris, with that level of police attention,” well, what I have I sad three times already? You are not meant to take The Grand Odalisque seriously. But, if you take it on its level, with all of its tropes and assumptions, it is a lot of fun. If you read it, I recommend making every effort not to engage the critical side of your brain; it will be no help.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.