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.
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.
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.
“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.