Tag Archives: Bande Dessinée

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.

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

ECCC 2017 Interview: Pénélope Bagieu and CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’

Illustrator and cartoonist Pénélope Bagieu is like any gifted artist: curious, industrious, and someone who welcomes a good obsession. I say that in the best sense of having an obsession since artists need them to spur on their work. Bagieu followed her muse to the music legend Cass Elliot. You can read my review of her graphic novel, “California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before The Mamas & the Papas,” published by First Second Books, right here. I had an opportunity to chat with Bagieu. We discuss her book, her thoughts on music, and what lies ahead.

We begin this video interview with my sharing with Pénélope my encountering the hit song and title of her book while I was having lunch. It seemed a bit uncanny to me. Pénélope did not exactly shrug off the observation but quickly acknowledged how ubiquitous that song is. And how powerful. It is every bit a work from the Sixties and yet totally co-exists in a timeless Neverland. Certain songs from that era aimed for such a vibe but precious few attained that quality. And so it was to be with Cass Elliot, one of the few to reach an ethereal and graceful immortality.

CALFORNIA DREAMIN' by Pénélope Bagieu

CALFORNIA DREAMIN’ by Pénélope Bagieu

Before we started rolling video, Pénélope was telling me about her visiting MoPOP here in Seattle. She said, if she could, she would live in that museum. That sort of sentiment won me over all the more. You can catch more of that thread in the interview when Pénélope responds to my asking her about the power of music.

What I would like to suggest to you is that, if you are going to Emerald City Comicon (and I’d love to hear from you about ECCC either on or off this blog) make sure to visit the First Second Books booth #1602 on the exhibit floor and get yourself an advance copy of “California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before The Mamas & the Papas.” For those of you not fortunate enough to visit, I highly recommend that you get a copy at your local comics shop, bookstore, or online.

exquisite-corpse-penelope-bagieu Pénélope Bagieu is an illustrator and cartoonist worthy of as big a reading audience as possible. CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’ is her second book to come out in an English language edition with First Second Books. Her first book was EXQUISITE CORPSE. Both of these titles, and others, originally were published in France by Gallimard. You can easily find EXQUISITE CORPSE online and I highly recommend that you do so. This is a 128-page full color hardcover. It is a sophisticated comedy about a young woman who becomes involved with an older man who happens to be a famous author. The question is whether she is in over her head or perhaps it is the other way around. There are a number of twists as the story builds. Bagieu has a keen sense of humor and wonderful timing. The main character of 22-year-old Zoe is full of life and quite memorable.

For more details on CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’, visit MacMillan Publishers right here.

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Filed under Bande Dessinée, Comics, ECCC, Emerald City Comicon, European Comics, First Second, France, French Comics, Humor, Penelope Bagieu, Seattle

Review: THE MAGICIAN’S WIFE by François Boucq and Jerome Charyn

Velvet Verbone warms up to the case.

Velvet Verbone warms up to the case.

Ever since its publication in 1986, it has developed a cult following. It’s been out-of-print in English for 30 years. And THE MAGICIAN’S WIFE has not lost any of its magic. This is a prime example of what is possible in comics in the graphic novel format. Thanks to Drew Ford and Dover Publications, it is back! As your guide through comics, I strongly recommend that you put aside everything, your morning coffee, your late-night rendezvous, whatever, and seek this book out. It will change your life.

THE MAGICIAN'S WIFE by François Boucq and Jerome Charyn

THE MAGICIAN’S WIFE by François Boucq and Jerome Charyn

All these French masters who took an American art form, the comic strip, and transformed it into the graphic novel: Bilal, Boucq, Blutch, Tardi, Masse, Liberatore, and Loustal. I was in Paris in that heady time, circa 1988, and I most vividly recall as a very young aspiring cartoonist and writer that something very different and exciting was happening. In that same year, Drew Ford, as a youth, would stumble upon a copy of “The Magician’s Wife” in a secondhand shop in upstate New York. Drew Ford would go on to see that book get a proper reprint at Dover Publications after being out-of-print in English for oh too long. So, what is so exciting, and magical, about this particular comic? Well, it speaks to that desire for a truly ideal and satisfying entertainment. It manages to actually realize that dream of a comic that is perfect down to each and every panel. A fantastical story that strikes you with its poetry and poignancy. And there’s supernatural things going on to boot. Rita, the magician’s wife, could quite possibly be a werewolf.

Our story makes its way to New York City.

Our story makes its way to New York City.

Much in the irreverent and artistic French spirit, this is a story that simply is. In some sense, is it both a complex and straightforward visual treat. It is also a splendid work of surreal, absurd, whimsy. And, in the end, it is a very well-structured, undeniably tightly-knit story. It feels like a dream that goes on forever and yet you sense that it is also quite a lean and determined piece. Silly, fun, but also deadly serious. Full of symbolic impact. With a squarely-in-the-eyes shot to the deepest recesses of your mind. Graphic novels come from the city and this is very much an urban story full of gritty elements. Yes, this definitely has mature content. But, like in the best work of this kind, there is a certain level of restraint that makes this suitable for young teens and up.

Verbone continues to track down clues.

Verbone continues to track down clues.

Edmund, the magician in this story, is a cross between an amazing wizard and a cowardly ne’er-do-well. It is a struggle that will consume him and those that come into his orbit. Things move at a relatively steady clip in a work of comics. However, there a number of reasons to slow down the pacing: to convey a mood, to reinforce an idea, to thoroughly establish a setting. This comic manages to keep things moving while seeming to have all day to do it and all in a tidy 82 pages. I maintain that a comic need not run longer than 80 or 100 pages. You find your sweet spot and you don’t need to pad things up.

Edmund futilely attempts to show everyone who is boss.

Edmund futilely attempts to show everyone who is boss.

Consider the above page. Not too much obvious movement but you can quickly sense a rapid energy at work as well. This is a pivotal moment for Edmund: he is momentarily in full control and in the process of consolidating his position, and then he must confront a huge setback and a taste of what’s to come. We first find him emerging from a restful pose; then a full-figure attentive pose; followed by arm raised in confrontation; right in the center, an indignant look; his former lover defies him; he escalates the situation; finally, his new lover puts him in his place.

Edmund. Rita, Detective Verbone. Ah, all the misbegotten jockeys from Saratoga Springs. The gals at the diner. The regular group of cops too concerned with hamburgers. And the hoodlums from the Lower Eastside led by the monstrous Ross. And, for an added literary touch, Dolores, a name that keeps floating in and out of the narrative. At varying times, it belongs to someone’s sweetheart, an animal, and a maid. If only Dolores could be pinned down for just a moment, she might have something quite insightful to reveal. But, not to worry, perhaps the jockeys will carve up another horse. And everything rendered in this glorious semi-realistic style that floats along perfectly with great distinction–and such vivid color. Yes, this is it. This is the graphic novel you’ve been waiting for all your life. Get it at our friends at Dover Publications right here.

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Filed under Bande Dessinée, Comics, Dover Publications, François Boucq, France

French Comics Invasion: Reviews for Latest Titles from Delcourt Group Debuts In English on ComiXology

Delcourt-comiXology

Imagine that you are in Paris and you stroll into a local comics shop in search of comics, or “bande dessinée.” There are plenty of BD shops to choose from and, moreover, plenty of comics. Now, imagine that a massive selection of French comics is available to you right from wherever you happen to be. ComiXology presents to you what they like to call their own “French Invasion.” This week, comiXology unveiled its first line of titles from Delcourt Group, the leading independent comic book publisher in France.

We begin with five lead monthly titles and one lead graphic novel. Among the monthlies is “The Curse of The Wendigo” by Walking Dead artist Charlie Adlard and writer Mathieu Missoffe. The lead graphic novel is “Come Prima” by Alfred, the Winner of the Prix du Meilleur Album at the 2014 Angoulême International Comics Festival. You can find them all by visiting our friends at comiXology right here.

Below you’ll find my reviews for all six of these titles. There are more than 150 Delcourt Group titles to be released exclusively by comiXology. This is truly a French comics invasion!

The-Curse-of-the-Wendigo

The Curse of the Wendigo written by Mathieu Missoffe and illustrated by Charlie Adlard.
To be published in two monthly installments, beginning July 6.
What creature is dangerous enough to unite the French and German troops in July of 1917? Only one man knows: Wohati, one of the 12,000 Native Americans in the U.S. Army. Wohati must lead two warring sides to solve the mystery of the Wendigo, for he alone understands the horror of what’s out there waiting for them.

This is what comics are all about: a story that takes you to some very trippy and scary places with a masterful sense of horror mixed with biting satire. You get great character studies here as we go back and forth between French and German trench warfare. But there’s a common enemy that will compel both sides to lay down their arms against each other. And, emerging from the background, as he’s not much of a talker, is the Native American warrior, Wohati. With his help, these two mighty forces can find the bogey man they seek and then resume blowing each other’s heads off.

Iron-Squad

Iron Squad co-created and written by Jean-Luc Sala and illustrated by Ronan Toulhoat.
comiXology exclusive cover for issue 1 by Matteo Scalera (Secret Avengers)
To be published in ongoing monthly installments, beginning July 6.
What if new technology in 1944 turned the course of World War II and led the Germans to victory?

What would a batch of BD be without a good World War II tale? Ah, and this one takes the cake. It will be sure to please many a reader of many levels. Having just read Philip K. Dick’s “The Man in the High Castle,” I was in just the right mood to check out “Iron Squad,” an alternate history story with quite a kick. Filled with all the details that make for a good war story and sci-fi story, you will lose yourself in the spectacle of it all.

Josephine

Josephine created, written and illustrated by Pénélope Bagieu
To be published in ongoing monthly installments, beginning July 6.
Cartoonist and blogger Pénélope Bagieu tells the story of Josephine, featuring professional relationships gone awry, a series of faux pas, and many a failed romance.

“Josephine” is a perfect example of quirky light humor. Just as you may expect, we follow our heroine on a series of misadventures. She’s the cute girl who marches to the beat of a different drummer. This is a collection of webcomics that grows on you as you take it all in. I would be surprised to find this collection on the laptop of one of the characters from “Girls” but it would fit right in.

Prométhée

Prométhée created, written and illustrated by Chrisopher Bec
To be published in ongoing monthly installments, beginning July 6.
Preface by bestselling writer Mark Waid (Insufferable)
comiXology exclusive cover for issue 2 by Andrea Sorentino (Old Man Logan)
What happened on September 21, 2019 at 1:13 PM can never be explained. And then, for 13 consecutive days, another unexplainable phenomenon occurs&hellip every day at exactly 1:13 PM. Prométhée is a mind-bending science fiction story written and drawn by Chrisopher Bec that recalls Lost and the very best science fiction.

This sort of heroic over-the-top story is a prime example of solid adventure BD. Full of larger-than-life characters tasked to save planet Earth, you better fasten your seat belt before you blast off. This is quite a treat as we follow a story full of mystery involving alien technology and a fateful Space Shuttle mission set in the not so distant future.

Spin-Angels

Spin Angels co-created and written by Jean-Luc Sala and illustrated by Pierre-Mony Chan
To be published in ongoing monthly installments, beginning July 6.
The bestselling, action-filled Spin Angels series features a Catholic Church Cardinal who runs a black-ops group of spies, and the mafia godfather who puts his very best hitman in service of the Vatican in order to settle a debt.

You’ve got to have at least one adrenaline-fueled adventure involving the Knights Templar! Turns out there’s a strong lead indicating holy relics, long since thought part of Templar myth, are to be found in present day Nova Scotia. Of course, it will take nothing less than an A-team commando squad to fight off all the interested parties. If you’re looking for a fantasy-laden madcap BD adventure, then this is for you.

Come-Prima

Come Prima created, written and drawn by Alfred
To be published on July 6.
With his award winning graphic novel Come Prima, Alfred (Why I Killed Peter) has created a poignant homage to Italian cinema and a surprising story about two brothers who hit the road following their father’s death.

The master cartoonist Alfred brings to life a most vivid world with a crisp and economical style. More cartoonists would do well to learn from him. We begin with a yell, “Fabio!” This leads us to bold and muscular scenery: a French cityscape, a boxing match, a boxing poster. It is circa 1958. Giovanni has come for his brother, Fabio, who seems to always find a way to escape responsibility.

It appears that Giovanni offers a path to redemption. Fabio, we can tell early on, is distant and yet vulnerable. He resists the call back home to Italy up until he sees that his brother is holding an urn with his father’s ashes. That is too much, and so begins a journey.

Alfred offers up a poignant story with plenty of twists and turns. We find that Giovanni is not so much the saintly son. And Fabio is not entirely the brute. But they can dig their heels in too and conflict is always around the corner.

Ultimately, we cheer them on and wish them as safe a journey as is possible. Quite a realistic story of two stubborn men coming to terms with life, mortality, and something greater than themselves.

And so there’s reviews for the first round of titles from Delcourt. You can find all these titles by visiting our friends at comiXology right here.

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Filed under Bande Dessinée, BD, Comics, Comixology, Delcourt, European Comics, France, French Comics

Review: ‘An Enchantment’ (Louvre Collection)

Enchantment-Christian-Durieux

Christian Durieux states that he sought to create comic book poetry with his graphic novel, “An Enchantment.” He definitely succeeds in doing just that. The collaboration between the Louvre and NBM ComicsLit to co-edit books inspired by the Louvre results in such wonderful works of comics. This one is pure magic. It’s like watching a dance sequence with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The comic flows so well that it glides. It could easily have been wordless but the dialogue is so charming.

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Filed under Bande Dessinée, Comics, ComicsLit, France, French Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, NBM

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?

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

Review: ‘Glacial Period’ (Louvre Collection)

Glacial-Period-Nicolas-De-Crecy-NBM

This week we will consider NBM ComicsLit’s collection of comics with a Louvre-inspired theme. We begin with the book that kicked it all off back in 2007, Nicolas De Crécy’s refreshingly cool look at art, “Glacial Period.” It was such a wonderfully odd duck of a book that the paperback promptly sold out and had been hard to find until now. Just released, “Glacial Period” finds a new home in a bigger hardcover edition. This little gem spurred The Louvre museum to become involved in a co-edition of a series of graphic novels, each a vision by a different artist of the great museum.

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Filed under Bande Dessinée, Comics, ComicsLit, France, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, NBM

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.

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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:

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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.

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