Category Archives: Angoulême

Review: ‘Ville avoisinant la Terre’ by Jorj A. Mhaya

Our hero

Taking a global view, there’s isn’t a hotter book right now than “Ville avoisinant la Terre,” by Jorj A. Mhaya. It was originally published in Arabic in 2011 by Dar Onboz. And it has been recently translated into French by Éditions Denoël. This is a gorgeous book and it is only a matter of time before there is an English translation. In the meantime, I would encourage you to seek it out now and get ahead of the pack. If you enjoy the convenience of Amazon, you can find it right here. Let’s take a closer look.

The setting: Beirut, Lebanon

Over years, I’ve enjoyed a number of comics in languages I don’t know well or at all. For example, you don’t have to know French to enjoy the artwork of Blutch or Tardi. And so it is with the artwork of Mhaya. He has a wonderfully sensitive and expressive line punctuated by his use of China black ink wash.

A map for some context.

You will get much of the gist of the narrative by simply following along our main character, Farid Tawill, a typical office worker from Beirut. It may be evident from what you see but, just in case, this man’s world has been turned upside down. On his way home from the office, he finds that the apartment building where he lives with his family has disappeared. Further along his search, he finds his whole city as become alien to him. Like a character out of Kafka, or from an episode of “The Twilight Zone,” our hero appears to be in an alternate reality.

Front cover of “Ville avoisinant la Terre” by Jorj A. Mhaya

Alienation is a favorite subject in art. Edvard Munch’s “Scream” series, first begun in 1893, is the most famous example. And it comes as no surprise that, over a hundred years later, we find Munch quite relevant–feel compelled to add more to the discourse on disconnection–and see how the world has forged some pretty heavy links. It’s not lost on Mhaya from his vantage point in Beirut.

Back cover of “Ville avoisinant la Terre” by Jorj A. Mhaya

Mhaya wants you to feel the surreal quality to his homeland. He has stated that he gained a lot of insight from the photojournalism he grew up with: the urgent black & white news photos during the Beirut civil war in the ’70s and ’80s help to inform his moody ink wash artwork.

Page excerpt from VLAT

How much more absurd can life seem to be than to live in a perpetual war zone? No wonder Mhaya has an obese Batman character chasing our hero down the streets.

Page excerpt from VLAT

What Mhaya has done with this book is set up a vehicle upon which to comment upon the absurdity of life, weaving back and forth from the specifics (his own experiences, views, and concepts) and the general human condition. This is what any great novelist, filmmaker, painter, etc. does on some level: set the stage and then perform. It is certainly a process well suited for a graphic novelist.

Page excerpt from VLAT

So, you can see that you can do very well from just reading the images. Yes, you do want the text. In fact, you do need the text. But we can live with just the images. We see the little hooks that motivate the artist: everything from a close-up of a mangy dog to a close-up of a woman’s pretty feet. This or that panel do not just appear out of nowhere. The dog is a symbol of isolation. The feet are a symbol of release.

Page excerpt from VLAT

It appears that our hero is forced to confront his life in every which way possible: philosophical, emotional, sexual, intellectual. He is not just in an alternate reality. He is in a place that forces him to experience a heightened sense of reality. His choices, what he learns, what he survives, will determine his fate.

“Ville avoisinant la Terre” by Jorj A. Mhaya

And here I am commenting up a storm and I’m only relying upon the pictures! Well, it makes total sense that this book went first with a French translation in order to make the natural progression to being part of the prestigious Angoulême Comics Festival. And now English readers can’t wait to join in. The loose translation in English to this book is “City Neighboring the Earth.” I look forward to that title in the near future.

“Ville avoisinant la Terre,” by Jorj A. Mhaya, is an 88-page hardcover, black & white with tones, translated into French by Éditions Denoël. Find it at Amazon right here.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Angoulême, Angoulême Comics Festival, Éditions Denoël, Beirut, Comics, France, Franz Kafka, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Jorj A. Mhaya, Lebanon, Middle East

Angoulême 2014: ComiXology’s Jeremy Nguyen

ComiXology-Jeremy-Nguyen

ComiXology is enjoying its second year at the Festival de la Bande Dessinée d’Angoulême 2014.

Jeremy Nguyen, an accomplished illustrator himself, is providing his own special report. Follow Jeremy’s Angouléme journal at the comiXology Tumblr here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Angoulême, Angoulême Comics Festival, Comics, Comixology

Angoulême 2014: What to See (Live Stream Video)

Angouleme-BD-Festival

Rutu Modan and Alison Bechdel at the  2014 Angoulême Comics Festival

Rutu Modan and Alison Bechdel at the 2014 Angoulême Comics Festival

Here is a look at what you can expect to see at this year’s Angoulême Comics Festival, which runs from January 30 thru February 2. Just grab a croissant and kick back and watch some of the proceedings.

The festival has since cut off its live feed. For a long stretch, try this link here.

From press material for the Angoulême Comics Festival 2014:

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Angoulême, Angoulême Comics Festival, Bande Dessinée, Comics, European Comics, French Comics

Angoulême 2014: ComiXology presents Joe Keatinge’s French Comic Picks

Docteur Radar by Glénat

Docteur Radar by Glénat

ComiXology is making a big splash at this year’s Festival de la Bande Dessinée d’Angoulême. In connection with being a part of the Angoulême Comics Festival, which runs from January 30 thru February 2, ComiXology presents some top picks in French comics selected by Joe Keatinge (writer on such titles as TECH JACKET DIGITAL, BATMAN INC. SPECIAL, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN). ComiXology is proud to present a fine selection of French comics. You can read Keatinge’s thoughts about some of his favorite titles (all available at ComiXology) here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Angoulême, Angoulême Comics Festival, Bande Dessinée, Comics, Comixology, French Comics

2014 Angoulême Review: HOW THE WORLD WAS by Emmanuel Guibert

Angouleme-BD-Festival

L-Enfance-D-Alan-Emmanuel-Guibert

The 2014 Angoulême Comics Festival, being held in Angoulême, France, is just around the corner: January 30th through February 2nd. As one of Europe’s most premiere comic book events, the Angoulême Festival helps set the tone for the rest of the year in comics. One of the selections featured this year is “L’enfance d’Alan,” published by L’Association. It is by Emmanuel Guibert and chronicles the life of his friend growing up in California in the years prior to World War II. It seems quite appropriate to provide this advance review of the first American edition, entitled, “How The World Was: A California Childhood,” translated by Kathryn Pulver, published by First Second Books.

How-The-World-Was-A-California-Childhood-Emmanuel-Guibert-2014

It is a wonderful little miracle each time a life’s story is so vividly brought to life in comics. Cartoonist Emmanuel Guibert created “Alan’s War,” a graphic novel about his friend’s time as a soldier in World War II. For this new graphic novel, he turns the focus over to Alan’s childhood in California. And he does a most interesting thing. He lets Alan’s voice be heard with a deft balance of word and picture. Guibert lets the words breathe by providing them with all the room they need. These are, after all, delicate and quiet reflections and they require a certain tone.

Much of the story is told directly by Alan. His narration is predominant. We only need a smattering of word balloons on some pages. Guibert manages the tempo by alternating layouts: cinematic storyboard, grid sequence, tableau, scrapbook vignette. On one page, he has Alan recalling his grandfather’s habit of spreading out his magazines during his routine lounging. As part of that, he depicts the old man as a magazine cover portrait. This is all in the service of spinning a good yarn.

How-The-World-Was-Guibert-First-Second-Books-2014

Ultimately, this book lives up to its title. Guibert, with a gentle and consistent vision, provides us with a sense of how the world was. This is Alan’s childhood and we’ve been provided a portal back in time to view it. Like anyone’s life it has its struggles, drama, and pain. But we never get pushed out of the story by melodrama. This is an honest depiction, almost as if a camera were left rolling while Alan recollects as well as rolling directly upon key moments in his life. It is left to Guibert to give it shape, and therefore bring out its meaning, and that he does.

Guibert-Lenfance-Dalan-Angouleme-2014

“How The World Was” is a 160-page book, priced at $19.99, and will be released by First Second on August 12, 2014. Visit First Second here.

The Angoulême Comic Festival celebrates its 41st year, having first debuted in 1974. It is now the second largest comic book convention in the world, with more than 200,000 visitors attending each year. Numerous prestigious awards are granted during the four-day festival, known as the Le Palmares Officiel du Festival, covering a wide range of categories, including “Best Album,” “Angoulême Essentials,” and the “Grand Prix de la ville d’Angoulême,” which is awarded to a living creator in honor of their lifetime achievement.

For more information about the Angouleme Comics Festival, visit here.

1 Comment

Filed under Angoulême, Bande Dessinée, Comics, European Comics, First Second, French Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels