Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Comics Review: Grandville Noel

It's been a couple of weeks since Thoughtbubble, and I'm still slowly but steadily reading through my loot pile, held up thanks to visitors, house decoration and the usual distractions of parenthood. Also, it's a fairly big pile containing a lot of stuff, so I've been reading them through in order of excitement, or in some cases, mood. First off the pile was unquestionably Bryan Talbot's Grandville Noel, which wasn't actually out, officially at Thoughtbubble, and sadly Bryan wasn't there to sign it either, but a couple of stalls had advance copies and I snapped one up as my first purchase. I am an unashamed Bryan Talbot fanboy, and Grandville in particular has always been exceptionally good value to me.

Grandville Noel is the fourth book in a series that is part steampunk action thriller and part elaborate homage to French comics featuring anthropomorphic animals. In a world dominated by an Imperial France and populated by various animal species, it's hero is Detective Inspector LeBrock, a fearsome English Badger with a penchant for the odd bit of ultra-violence. So far we've seen a three pretty different stories in this world, and Noel changes this up again, this time introducing strongly religious themes and a fair bit of expanded world-building. As you can tell from the cover, this is mostly centred on a Christ-like Unicorn, but also features the largest exploration yet of Grandvilles biggest oddity, the Doughfaces.

The story opens in the United States, setting up our Christicorn and his cult of followers, before shifting to the UK and bringing in LeBrock to investigate a girl who has run away to join this cult as it sets up in Paris. Along the way we also get a Doughface - the slang term for this universes human underclass - Pinkertons Agent, also investigating. Things quickly become complicated by Facist gangs, religious conspiracies and secret histories, all clipping along together with a great sense of pace. Returning ensemble members Ratzi and Billie (the sexiest Badger in any media) are also welcome although Ratzi is a little sidelined for much of the story. As with previous entries there are also definite hooks for future volumes.

It's also to its credit that this is an exceptionally handsome volume. Like all the other Grandvilles, this is a full colour, large-format hardback volume with top quality printing and great art. The homages to both religious painting and to other comics series are frequent and lavish, and its the sort of comic that really shows off the strengths of the medium rather than being content to mimic say, filmic direction in a panel layout. Even without a good story to go with it, the art alone would be worth the price of entry.

If you're already a fan of Grandville this is, I suspect already a shoe-in to buy, and is certainly a worthy addition to the series. If you're not a fan of Grandville, then go get the first one, become a fan of Grandville, and work your way to this. Go on, do it now!