Welcome to the April Izneo Pubwatch! We at WWAC have been diving into the latest in European graphic novels translated into English, and I can’t wait to share with you my latest finds. There are also some exciting offers from Izneo this month that you might enjoy. As always, if you haven’t had time yet, please do check out Izneo’s site, it’ll be fun!
And now, without further ado, let’s take a look at the latest news from Izneo. I’ve also got a several recommendations of their newest comics for you to read.
In the News
Fans of the British crime-solving duo Blake and Mortimer should be heading to Izneo right now! Izneo are offering seven volumes of the series at 50% discount for a limited time—only till April 6. Each volume was available at CDN $15, but now you can purchase them for less than CDN $7 each. Get it quick.
Speaking of crime graphic novels, Izneo also has an offer on four more crime trilogies. Enjoy Lethal Lullaby, Agence Interpol, Pablo Escobar, and Tebori for just CDN $2.99 each. The discount is available through April 15.
Izneo have a special sale on their entire Humanoids catalogue—more than 50 books!—till April 30. Get volumes for as little as CDN $3.69 to CDN $7.49. Enjoy!
Mini-Reviews: Loved It!
Yasmina and the Potato Eaters Part 1
Cromatik Ltd (letters), Montana Kane (translation), Wauter Mannaert (writer and artist)
Dargaud-Benelux (French, 2019), Europe Comics (English, 2019)
Yasmina loves to cook vegetables. Every day, she makes stunning meals for herself and her father with all the best vegetables she can find. Most of them she sources from her friends, Cyril and Marco, rival farmers with excellent produce, others she steals from her neighbour. But all Yasmina’s culinary joys come to an end when a potato manufacturer takes over local farms, growing an irresistible strain of potato that everyone soon becomes addicted to. What is Yasmina to do now?
What an incredibly enjoyable adventure tale this turned out to be! I had a smile on my face with every page I read. Not only is protagonist Yasmina adorable and spunky, she’s also a sweetheart. And her culinary delights looked so scrumptious, I felt hungry throughout the book.
I love the diversity in this book, which has been a rarity in this month’s releases. The diversity extended beyond Yasmina and her father Omran, to include Omran’s co-workers and Yasmina’s friends, displaying a truly international feel to the book’s setting.
The art is to die for. It’s cute, colourful, playful, and fun. I couldn’t help but fall in love with this book and this story from the very first page. I can’t wait to see whether Yasmina saves the potato-eaters in Part 2!
Aristophania: The Kingdom of Azur
Cromatik Ltd (letters), Xavier Dorison (writer), Joël Parnotte (artist), Lara Vergnaud (translation)
Dargaud-Benelux (French, 2019), Europe Comics (English, 2019)
1900, Versailles. Clément Francouer may appear to be a simple factory worker but he is secretly a soldier of Azur, tasked with finding the Aurora Spring, the only thing capable of defeating the banished king, Gedeon. But Clément is found by the Rat-Catcher and killed, leaving his wife and three children destitute. Years later, when their lives are worse than before, the Francouers are found by Aristophania, a magician, who is the only person who knew Clément’s true identity. The Francouer children find themselves in Azur with a difficult choice ahead of them—avenge their father and save their mother by joining Aristophania, or return to their dismal lives.
As fantasy stories go, this book was a gripping start to what promises to be an epic adventure series. It’s got the best of Narnia with a dash of The Three Musketeers—what more could you ask for?
The characters are well depicted and each gets their moment in the sun. The children have distinct personalities and their individual purposes are made obvious in this first volume. Aristophania is mysterious and intriguing, a powerful being who isn’t afraid to break the rules for what she believes in.
The setting of turn-of-the-century France is an exciting choice and lends itself to some stunning art. You can feel the grime and claustrophobia oozing off the page, which makes the lush beauty of Azur that much more enticing. I cannot wait for the next volume!
Malaterre Part 2
Cromatik Lit (letters), Pierre-Henry Gomont (writer and artist), M B Valente (translation)
Dargaud Benelux (French, 2018), Europe Comics (English, 2019)
In the second and final volume of Malaterre, the Lesaffre family come undone as patriarch Gabriel takes ever more risky ventures in the hopes of saving his ancestral home of Malaterre. His neglect of his children, Simon and Mathilde, who he effectively kidnapped from their mother, begins to take a toll on them, with Simon acting out violently. But it is only after Gabriel’s death that his children begin to understand the purpose of Malaterre in their lives, and how some ties were meant to be severed.
Gabriel is an unlikeable man, but in this volume, we see more to him than his brashness. Despite his faults, he had a dream he pursued to the end of his life—it’s unfortunate that he went about it the wrong way.
I like how this volume addresses the issue of race—the Lesaffre family are French expats in an undefined country where the majority of the population are people of colour. Though the children do their best to fit in, Gabriel still believes in white supremacy, a belief that comes back to bite him, and one that his children call him out on. I liked that the text actually comments on his racism—all too often, stories set in the past reflect the same mentality, despite being written in the present.
I do wish that Mathilde had more of an arc in this volume. Her story is completely overshadowed by Simon’s, who takes centre-stage. I also wonder what the reasoning was for the panels of body-shaming a fat character early on in the book. Could have done without that.
Despite this, Malaterre was a fascinating look at a dysfunctional family and the importance (or lack thereof) of legacies.
Mini Reviews: Meh ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Blossoms in Autumn
Cromatik Ltd (letters), Aimee de Jongh (artist), Matt Madden (translation), Zidrou (writer)
Dargaud (French, 2018), (English, 2019)
Mediterranea is struggling to deal with old age. She is sixty-two, but she feels like the witch from Snow White. Elsewhere, Ulysses has been made redundant. His life is purposeless and lonely. The paths of these two melancholic figures cross unexpectedly at Ulysses’ son’s medical office. And their lives are never the same again.
Blossoms in Autumn is a romance graphic novel that manages to be surprisingly charming, despite being extremely predictable. I found the chemistry between Mediterranea and Ulysses effortless and sweet, and genuinely felt like smiling while reading some of the panels.
However, I felt that the story took too long to build up. I understand the necessity for showing the protagonists in their own spaces, and developing their insecurities. But their meeting, and the ensuing romance, ends up feeling rushed because the prologue is so long. It would have worked better to have them meet earlier on.
The art is whimsical but attractive. The characters are all distinguishable from each other and the locations are beautifully captured—one almost feels like they’re reading a collection of postcards at times!
I have to say that this book was a far more enjoyable read than I expected it to be. It is hopeful and positive, and refreshing in its depiction of romance.
John—Life Is Worth Fighting For
Mario Boon (artist), Luc Colemont (writer), Mariachristina Federico (colours), James Vandermeesch (translation)
Ballon Media (Belgian, 2018), Europe Comics (English, 2019)
John has just turned fifty and he is feeling old. His younger daughter insists he fly to Rome, where she is studying, as a birthday present, even though John hates flying. Nevertheless, he survives the ride, meets a beautiful woman, but collapses on the return flight. It turns out that John has colon cancer and is about to face the biggest battle of his life.
This graphic novel is a PSA more than anything else, and in that sense it works. Creators Mario Boon and Luc Colemont are explicit in their depiction of cancer and it makes the story a challenging read. However, their message is loud and clear—get checked by your doctor and do everything to prevent the cancer before it takes hold. I applaud them for their efforts.
Having said that, the story itself is not well-structured. John imagines himself to be a gladiator in the arena through this fight but the gladiatorial scenes feel out of sync with the rest of the story. It took me out of what was, otherwise, a well-written story about life and strength.
The art didn’t work for me—it was too cartoonish for a story with such gravitas. In another genre, it may have been good, but not with this. Despite that, Boon packs in a great deal of detail in the panels, and gives the reader a good sense of location.
Mini Reviews: Ugh, no!
Design Amorondi (letters), Franz (writer and artist), Jerome Saincantin (translation)
Dargaud (French, 2004), Europe Comics (English, 2019)
In the old West, a caravan of Italian and Irish immigrants is attacked by a group of Crow warriors. Two young girls are taken—Sharon and Lucia. The leader of the caravan, Logan Jubal, takes it upon himself to find the girls. On the way he is helped by Salmon Leap, a rogue Lakota warrior who has become Sharon’s protector. The two form an unlikely friendship that will last many battles and years.
This book is a very confusing read. It is extremely wordy, and the art and words don’t mesh well at all. Writer and artist Franz attempts to speak through his visuals but it fails to translate on the page. As a result, the reader is left with incomplete sentences, unformed thoughts, and visuals that are far too cluttered and dark to project a clear narrative.
Annoyingly, the female characters are given no growth or agency. In the Old West, two children are kidnapped, forced into new lives, grow up to get married and have children. What were their thoughts about their circumstances? What happened in their lives? What connected them to the people around them?
The girls’ stories would have made for a far more interesting tale than the one we got—a story about the friendship between men that transcends boundaries and prejudices. As much as I like reading a positive tale about Native Americans, this could have been so much better, but wasn’t. Best to avoid it.
That’s all for now, folks. Come back next month to see what Izneo has for you!