Markley’s Fevered Brain: Around the World 2017 Part 2

Wayne Markley

Wayne Markley


by Wayne Markley

This time I am continuing my world tour looking at graphic novels from around the world that do not get the attention I think they deserve. Here are four very different graphic novels, ranging from a story about a psychotic killer, to a heroic fantasy tale, to a bumbling detective, to a new graphic novel by one of my all-time favorite creative teams. Each of these books are very different in terms of style, art, and storytelling. Here you will find a four course meal of reading with each being so different than the prior one that you will not get bored or feel you are reading the same thing over and over. The content also varies from all ages to mature readers. As a bonus there is a brief recommendation of an American collection of a book I really enjoy and I want to plug in the hope it continues. So from Belgium to France to Spain to Italy, here are four books I think you would enjoy.

Jerome K Jerome Bloche Vol. 1: The Shadow Killer

Jerome K Jerome Bloche Vol. 1: The Shadow Killer


Jerome K Jerome Bloche Vol. 1: The Shadow Killer is a French graphic novel that is the first of a series of book that have been released in France by writers Alain Dodier and Pierre Makyo and artist Serge Le Tendre. IDW recently published the first volume of this series in English as part of their EuroComics line. This book was a blast. The basic story is about Jerome K. Jerome Bloche who fancies himself to be a private eye, even though his skills are minimal at best, and he solves most of his cases by sheer luck, rather than real skill. This story reminds me a lot of Peter Seller’s Inspector Clouseau films (Pink Panther, A Shot in the Dark) or Chevy Chase’s Fletch movies. It is a good detective story, but it is also a mix of slapstick comedy and visual humor. The storytelling is tight and the story moves at a very quick pace, and Jerome’s attempts to get around Paris on his scooter are a riot. What is even more amazing is Jerome has a girlfriend (who assists him in small ways aside from her real job) and adds a sense of reality to counter the comedy antics of Jerome. The art is in a cartoony style but it is realistic enough so as not to distract from the story’s drama. This was a fun read, not a great detective story like Darwyn Cooke’s Parker series (also available from IDW), but it is enough mystery mixed with humor to win me over. Jerome K. Jerome Bloche will return in the spring in volume 2 entitled The Paper People.

The Man from the Great North

The Man from the Great North


The Man from the Great North is another part of IDWs great line of EuroComics, and this one is by master Italian storyteller Hugo (Corto Maltese) Pratt. This is an amazing book for a number of reasons. One, it is a full color hardcover book by Hugo Pratt. Secondly, this is the first time this book has been in print in America in over 40 years. Third, it is the first time I have ever seen a graphic novel that was adapted into a movie where the storyboards from the film are inserted into the graphic novel to flesh out the story so the book goes from the beautifully drawn comic pages to a series of sketch/breakdowns that are storyboards from the film, back to the beautiful comic pages. All of it flows seamlessly. The story is about Jesuit Joe, and is set in Northern Canada in the 1920s. Based on the description, Pratt planned to come back to this character as there are a lot of questions left about Joe and who he is and what his motivations are, but alas Pratt never did another Jesuit Joe story. Jesuit Joe is dressed as a Royal Canadian Mounty, but he is in fact a killer who has his own strange rules of conduct. All we really learn about him is he is Indian and he collects scalps of the people he kills. The story is interesting as he does not kill everyone, and at times you would think the protagonist is doomed, but Joe does not kill him. In fact, he even saves the hero at one point. It is a fascinating read and more of a character study than a crime story. As with all of Pratt’s work, it is a tour-de-force in storytelling. I am always put off by Pratt’s art style, which seems to have come from the Sickles/Caniff school of art, but once I start reading his work I always forget what I found off putting about his style as the story always drags me in within the first few pages and then I cannot put the book down. This is different from his more famous work, Corto Maltese, but it is just as powerful and almost more intriguing, as there are so many uanswered questions. For mature readers due to violence and nudity.

Mercenary Vol. 1: The Cult of the Sacred Fire

Mercenary Vol. 1: The Cult of the Sacred Fire


NBM has recently released the 40th anniversary edition of the classic Mercenary Vol. 1: The Cult of the Sacred Fire by Vicente Segrelles, who is a Spanish writer and painter. This is a beautiful hardcover book reprinting the first volume of the Mercenary series along with a number of sketch and background pages added for the first time. This book features all-new scans of the painted art making this the most beautiful version of the Mercenary I have ever seen. The basic story is about the Mercenary and his various adventures he finds himself in, mostly involving scantily clad (or nude) young damsels in distress. While this summary sounds like a shallow men’s adventure story, it is actually a complex and well thought out fantasy story that unfolds in future volumes. This first volume sets it up with three stories that all follow one another in continuity as the world of the Mercenary is unveiled. Most of the action takes place in the sky on flying dragons or in hot air balloons, and in dark castles. These book are known mostly for Segrelles’ beautifully painted art, which I must say has never looked better. The story is better than I remember it when I first read it 40 years ago, and it is in the vein of traditional sword and sorcery stories, but still quite original. This would appeal to fans of Conan and heroes of this genre, although the art is better. This was a fun, fantasy filled tale of a man fighting to save the girl while being confronted by a mix of bad guys and politics. NBM plans on re-releasing all of the Mercenary series in this new deluxe versions, and I for one, am looking for to them. Mature readers due to nudity.

Samaris

Samaris


Samaris is the newest volume in the Obscure Cities series by Belgian creator’s writer Benoit Peeters and artist Francois Schuiten. Let me be honest up front and say I do not think Peeters and Schuiten can do anything wrong. Their collaborations are always stunning and Schuiten’s art is on a level all by itself, unmatched by any other artist. This is a full color book also from IDW and is also part of their EuroComisc line. In this volume a young government official named Franz (an homage to Peeter’s Franz Kafka inspired storytelling?) who is sent to the city of Samaris to look into the disappearance of four other government officials. Once he gets there he finds a beautiful woman, who everyone seems to be suspicious of, and she leads Franz on a strange and twisted adventure. This volume has been expanded since its first American publication in 1987 (by NBM) with a number of added pages including over 30 pages not in the original book and are in English for the first time. The book has also been recolored to closer match the brilliant coloring Schuiten did in the original European version of this book. Any comic fan, or fans of well told stories, should try this book, or any of Peeters and Schuiten work. Together they rival Lee/Kirby or O’Neil/Adams as a creative team that either separately or together work at a level rarely seen in comics. It is a feast for your brain and your eyes. Highly recommended.

This wraps up this trip around the world. From Belgium to France to Spain and down to Italy, I have looked at graphic novels from these countries that have recently been reissued or printed for the first time in America. These four book are more examples of how much great material there is around the world that we in American rarely get to see (only a small percentage of European albums are reprinted here). Thankfully, publishers like IDW, NBM, and others (Cinebooks, Humanoids, Fantagraphics, and Dark Horse Comics) are making an effort to show us how much great material there is. What I love about all of these books is how different they are from traditional American comics, and none of them are superheroes. There are superhero books in these countries, but they tend to be the exception rather than the rule as they are in America. I love the diversity of subject material you can find in these European books. Also, the art is beautiful and also unlike most of what you will see in American comics. Do yourself a favor and try one of these books, you will not be disappointed.

W.B DeBay’s Rook

W.B DeBay’s Rook


I would also like to take a quick moment and point out the third volume of Dark Horse’s reprinting of W.B DeBay’s Rook series just came out. Once again this collects stories that originally appeared in Warren’s Eerie Magazine and have stories that are a fun mix of science fiction and time travel, mixed with a wry sense of humor. Rook is one of the great forgotten heroes of comics that had a long run with consistently good stories and art by a wide variety of people including Jim Starlin, Lee Elais, and others under a cover by Richard Corben. I really enjoy this collections and I hope there are more to come. So far Dark Horse has not solicited a fourth volume, but I am hopeful, as there is enough material for at least ten more volumes. A fun read for everyone.

That is a wrap. Everything I have written here is my opinion and does not reflect the thoughts or opinions of Westfield Comics. I hope you have enjoyed the travels around the world in the last two blogs and have discovered something you had not read before or were motivated to try something new. If you are a big a fan of the European material as I am, what would you recommend? I can be reached at MFBWAY@AOL.COM or on Facebook at Wayne Markley. I will be back next time with reviews of all American comics. No, not the old DC title, but of Marvel’s Legacy titles. Sure to be a fun read for all. As always…

Thank you.

 

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