Review: ‘On the Odd Hours’ (Louvre Collection)

On-the-Odd-Hours-Eric-Liberge

“On the Odd Hours” is part of the NBM ComicsLit collection of Louvre-inspired comics. Eric Liberge not only gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the grand museum from the perspective of museum guards. He’s created quite a fanciful story. What if the Louvre was haunted by all its great works and it’s up to one particular guard, in the odd hours of the night, to pacify the spirits?

That task of ghost whisperer will be passed on, like a baton, to a most unlikely candidate. Part would-be philosopher, part ultimate slacker, Bastien Gillet hardly inspires confidence. However, Fu Zui Ha, the one man who has been charged with “the guardianship of the odd hours,” at the Louvre for the last 34 years, has chosen Gillet as his successor. Perhaps it is the fact that both men are deaf that makes it easier for Ha to overlook Gillet’s formidable shortcomings.

Liberge does a splendid job of creating compelling characters. Both Ha and Gillet are stupendous oddballs but miles apart in temperament and sense of responsibility. Ha can be as batty as he wants but his record of service is impeccable. Gillet only seems capable of muddling through. There’s a fire that burns within him but it’s fueled by self-righteous delusion.

As the care of the spirits becomes more challenging, it puts portly and self-satisfied Gillet through the wringer and that’s fun to see. Liberge favors an intimate feel to his rendering. The art is depicted in a semi-realistic fashion with cartoony touches. The muted palette of earth tones spiked with hazy purples and blues enhances a story full of mysticism and the supernatural.

It is quite fun to see how Gillet attempts to overcome his situation. It’s like a cross between “Night at the Museum” and “Jumanji,” with “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” thrown into the bargain. When a supervisor asks Gillet why he should be trusted with his new job, he thinks about it for a moment and writes back, “The Mona Lisa winked at me.” Of course, in his case, it’s far more than a snarky comment.

This appears to be the only book in the Louvre series that is offered as a small paperback. All the others are in a larger hardcover format. It makes for a nice cozy book to lounge around with in a café, although I wouldn’t mind seeing this in a larger format too.

“On the Odd Hours” is available through NBM ComicsLit. You can find out more right here.

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Filed under Bande Dessinée, Comics, ComicsLit, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, NBM, Paris, The Louvre

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