Happy New Year and welcome to 2019’s first Izneo Pubwatch! We at WWAC recently began the Izneo Pubwatch because I’ve been enjoying exploring Izneo’s excellent collection of European comics translated into English, something I wanted to share with everyone else. I wish I knew French, because Izneo has a massive collection of comics and graphic novels in that language on their online portal as well. As I said in my previous Pubwatch, if you haven’t visited Izneo’s site yet, you’re in for a treat!
And now, without further ado, let’s take a look at the latest news coming out of Izneo. I’ve also got a few mini-reviews of their newest comics for you to read.
This month, Izneo have a special sale on comics featuring a female character in the armed or police forces. The selection of comics available include volumes of Reality Show, Karma City, Raptors, and Agence Interpol. Each volume of comics is priced at less than €3, so if you love a woman in uniform, this sale is for you.
For fans of classic French comics, the English translation of Spirou & Fantasio is on sale for another week. Own all five volumes of this hilarious collection for just €15. Talk about a bargain!
And for those of you who can read French and are fascinated by Arthurian legends, Izneo has a sale on a number of Arthurian series, including Merlin the Prophet, Lancelot, and Excalibur Chronicles. I definitely need to learn French now.
Assassin’s Creed Conspiracies Volume 1
Jessica Burton (translation), Guillaume Dorison (writer), Jean-Baptiste Hostache (artist), Studio Minte (colours), Patrick Pion (artist), Amoona Saohin (letters)
Les Deux Royaumes (French, 2016), Titans Comics (English, 2018)
In the midst of the Second World War, weary dock-worker Eddie Gorm becomes embroiled in the machinations of the Assassins Brotherhood and the Templars. As his mission to stop the creation of the atomic bomb becomes more complex, Eddie begins to question whether anyone around him can really be trusted.
For someone who hasn’t played Assassin’s Creed, I was a bit confused at first as to why I was reading a generic war story. It is only halfway through the story that the Assassin’s Creed is even mentioned and the time-travelling aspect well-known from the game makes an appearance.
At that point, the story picks up and becomes much more engaging. The narrative switches between past and present, giving readers more information about events from when Eddie was an officer, while developing a new plotline with characters connected to Eddie in the present. It would have been much better if the time-travel premise had been incorporated earlier in the story, or at least hinted at.
The art was a bit of a let-down as well, especially the characters, who all looked alike and weren’t very detailed. The landscapes were beautiful, but considering the artistry of the video game’s graphics, the art overall is not the quality I expected.
The book ends on a cliffhanger that should send the story in a more exciting direction. The next volume may be the one to read, if you can get through this one.
Philippe Aymond (artist), Pierre Christin (writer)
Dupuis (Belgium, 2018), Europe Comics (English, 2018)
In this unusual autobiography, Pierre Christin, creator of the classic fantasy/sci-fi comic series Valerian and Laureline, shares his adventures as a young student in midwestern US, and later as a journalist and comic book writer travelling through Cold War-era Eastern Europe. On the way, Christin indulges in his enduring love of jazz, his fascination with gypsies, and discovers a gift for capturing living history in the form of comic books.
Christin tells the story through his eyes, but rarely does the reader see him in the panels. Thus, we as readers become privy to the truths of the Civil Rights Movement in the US and the political and ideological upheavals in Eastern Europe in Christin’s place. Readers feel like they’re travelling through this graphic novel themselves, rather than experiencing it second-hand. By putting the reader in his shoes, Christin creates an immersive and intimate experience, more akin to a film than a comic book, which I absolutely loved.
It helps that Philippe Aymond’s art is so breathtakingly beautiful. From the opening page, one is enthralled by the sprawling landscapes and the stunning vistas that Christin encountered. Aymond brilliantly captures the identity of each of the cities and towns that Christin visited, as well as its people, so that by the end of the book, the reader feels like they’ve been on a whirlwind tour of half of the world.
This is an autobiography that will not just make you appreciate the work created by the author, but the man himself. I hope that we will get a North-South book soon so we can join Christin on his other adventures. In the meantime, I’ll be looking for Christin’s non-fiction comic books!
Cassio Volume 7
Stephen Desberg (writer), Henri Reculé (artist)
Le Lombard (French, 2013), Europe Comics (English, 2018)
In Ancient Rome, Cassio searches for his mother, believed to have been taken by Cassio’s arch-nemesis, Reptah. But what nefarious purpose could be behind Reptah’s interest in her? As Cassio comes close to the truth, he learns that everyone around him has an agenda.
In contemporary times, archaeologist Ornella Grazzi, who has taken over researching Cassio from her late mother, is summoned by the mysterious billionaire Jon Vegham. He has information about Ornella’s mother and her research, but in turn he needs Ornella to finish her mother’s work. What is the motivation behind his patronage?
Coming into the seventh volume of this series, I expected to be confused, but I found that the story brought me up to speed quite quickly. This book is an interesting jaunt through fictionalised history, with a heavy dose of mysticism and magic thrown in.
I do wish that there wasn’t so much gratuitous female nudity, especially as it isn’t balanced out by male nudity, which barely lasts for a single panel. The female characters, even protagonist Ornella, have no personality or depth; they exist simply to further Cassio’s story, no matter which time frame they exist in. The women are thus constantly in danger and in need of saving by men. And all of them are in love with Cassio, even though he is vile; plus they are repeatedly called degrading names, and of course, sexual violence is used against them to motivate… Cassio. For a story written in the twentieth century, this book is badly outdated already.
The art is good but the characters’ faces look too similar, making it difficult to follow the tale. The colours are very vivid but considering the setting, I was expecting the cityscapes to leap off the page in a way that they didn’t. I was hoping for an exotic and exciting tale of ancient Roman intrigue, but all I got was a reminder of how badly comics need to diversify their writers and artists.
Cromatik Ltd (letters), André Julliard (artist), Montana Kane (translation), Yann (writer)
Dargaud (French, 2018), Europe Comics (English, 2018)
Russian pilot Roman has volunteered to aid the Spanish war effort, but it hasn’t been easy-going. For one, Roman is still pining over the woman who left him. Then there’s the constant political intrigue of the Spanish Civil War, with citizens rising up against their leaders. Roman manages to stay far away from all this, but that changes when he meets Lulia, a militiawoman and member of the Mujeres Libres, an all-women anarchist group. Through Lulia, Roman becomes entangled in a conspiracy to take down the anarchists, and is thus forced to choose a side. Has he made the right decision?
I was excited to read this book because as the introduction states, most people don’t talk about the Spanish Civil War. How interesting for the story to be set during that time and involve the events that shaped Spain. Plus, readers were going to be introduced to the Mujeres Libres, who not many would have heard about. Feminist anarchists fighting a war? I was sold.
Sadly, the book is a let-down on almost all counts. Yes, we more than get a sense of the politics of the time and how they impacted fighters, militia, and the everyday person, but the story is more focused on Roman’s life in the air force, which is nothing we haven’t seen before. Roman has friends, he gambles and wins, he is lovesick, he is intermittently sad about his friends dying (a total of three panels only), he chafes against authority, and sticks it to the man whenever possible. We’ve met this exact same character so many times, we could write his story with our eyes closed.
The promised Mujeres Libres open the book, though their ‘story’ is told solely in the form of Lulia, but they then disappeared for so long that I was wondering whether I’d read it wrong. When Lulia returns half-way through the book, it turns out her role in this book is to be the… wait for it… love interest. Lulia’s story should have been driving this book—it’s a thousand times more interesting than Roman’s—but for some reason the creators decided to go the traditional route and focus the story on a man. What we get is a dismal mess because of this decision.
The art is good, particularly the work on the airplanes and the scenery, but all the characters are interchangeable, which made the reading experience very annoying. This book had so much promise in so many regards, but it just didn’t try.
That’s all for now, folks. Come back next month to see what Izneo has in store for you!