Welcome to the May 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,
Welcome to the May 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 few mini-reviews of their newest comics for you to read.
In the News
Izneo has an amazing offer on a selection of graphic novels by the masters. Buy The Reprieve, Lightness, Superdupont, Dark Side of the Moon, Muchacho, The White Sultana, and The Midlife Crisis each for CDN $5.29 or buy all seven for just $3.99! Offer lasts till May 15, so hurry.
Izneo has yet another fabulous bargain for the month of May: the best of Moebius Humanoids collection for only $2.99. Talk about a steal!
You can also get all eight volumes of Stephen Desbery and Enrico Marini’s The Scorpion for just $2.99 till May 12. You won’t want to miss this pirate adventure on the high seas!
Mini-Reviews: Loved It!
Yasmina and the Potato Eaters Part 2
Cromatik Ltd (letters), Montana Kane (translation), Wauter Mannaert (writer and artist)
Dargaud-Benelux (French, 2019), Europe Comics (English, 2019)
With the whole city addicted to a new breed of potatoes, Yasmina and her farmer friends, Cyril and Marco, are the only ones on the hunt for real food. But when Yasmina’s father becomes addicted as well, and starts displaying strange behaviour, Yasmina decides to take matters into her own hands. It turns out the solution could be closer than she thinks. But it will take an immense amount of bravery to save the city, and perhaps even the world.
I loved the first part of Yasmina and the Potato Eaters, and Part 2, which completes the story, is even more exciting. Not only is there a ton of mystery but a lot of action as well. We finally learn the villainous Pat Tato’s motives and the origin of the addictive potatoes. The third act is incredibly well-paced, with some heart-thumping scenes of action.
Yasmina is such a lovely protagonist—she is brave, and intelligent, and she has a good heart. She pretty much solves the mystery of the potatoes on her own and is instrumental in saving the day. Her relationship with her hardworking father is heartwarming, and her friendship with the ever-bickering Cyril and Marco is so much fun to read.
Undoubtedly one of my favourite Izneo reads. I will be keeping an eye out for more by Mannaert, for sure!
Mini-Reviews: Meh ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Green Class: Pandemic
Cromatik Ltd. (letters), Edward Gauvin (translation), Jérôme Hamon (writer), David Tako (artist and colours)
Dargaud-Lombard (French, 2019), Europe Comics (English, 2019)
A group of teenagers from Toronto are in Louisiana studying evolution when they learn that an epidemic has been raging around them. When one of their party is infected, they decide to stay behind to protect him until they can make their escape. But with a wall being built around the city and increasing lawlessness putting everyone’s lives at risk, the teenagers soon realise that they may be stuck here a very long time.
This YA apocalypse story should have been better than it turned out to be. Sadly, Green Class: Pandemic relies on tropes and stereotypes to power the conflict in its story and is so cliché in its depiction of human relationships that I found myself rolling my eyes far too often.
Layla: A Tale of the Scarlet Swamp
Alexandre Boucq (colours), Cromatik Ltd. (letters), Hamo (colours), Jérémy (writer), Montana Kane (translation), Mika (artist and colours)
Dargaud Benelux (French, 2018), Europe Comics (English, 2019)
In a fantasy world, Froghert struggles every day to keep himself and his alcoholic mother alive, a task made all the more difficult by Froghert’s obsession with the nearby swamp, or more precisely, with the being who lives there: Layla. A creature both beautiful and terrifying, Layla embeds herself in Froghert’s mind, so much so that he takes memories of Layla into adulthood, when he is married, with a child, and even when he is sent off to war. Little does Froghert realise how important a part Layla is about to play in the history of his world.
I like the innovation on display in this story, and there were elements that caught me by surprise. Fantasy stories should be more subversive, and I liked that a lot of the iconography usually associated with the genre was subverted in Layla. For instance, the protagonist, Froghert, is not the hero of the story—he is a cook who gets dragged into war against his will. Then there’s the teenage Princess Syrenia, who becomes a warrior queen in effort to bring back her country’s glory. Layla herself is powerful and unstoppable, no matter what comes her way.
But I am not sure about the nudity on display here. It makes sense for moments of intimacy but why does Layla the Snake Demon have to be nude? This is particularly troubling when we learn that Layla is Indian in origin. There’s a long history of the exoticisation and fetishization of women of colour, and Layla seems to revel in it.
Aside from this, the art and colours are outstanding. So rich and full of detail. The world truly leaps off the page, as do the characters.
As a fantasy story, I quite enjoyed Layla, but I do wish creators Jérémy and Mika had examined some of the elements they were including in their story.
Otaku Blue Volume 1
Cromatik Ltd. (letters), Edward Gauvin (Translation), Malo Kerfriden (Artist), Richard Marazano (Writer), Thorn (Colours)
Dargaud (French, 2012), Europe Comics (English, 2019)
Asami is working on her thesis on Otaku culture but getting the right resources to back up her thesis argument is proving harder than she expected. Meanwhile, a spate of murders of prostitutes in Tokyo is pressurizing the police detectives to find the serial killer, who is proving to be far too elusive. What connection does Asami’s research have with these killings?
This was an unusual story for me to read, as I only have a very vague idea of Otaku culture. I quite liked learning about it through Asami’s research in Otaku Blue, especially as she herself struggles to come to grips with many aspects of Otaku and the associated cosplay. Her relationship with the cosplayers was interesting to read, and I liked that neither Asami nor the cosplayers looked down on each other for what they did or didn’t do. I would have preferred if the makeover scene had been excluded, but one can read it as an integral part of Asami’s research.
Despite my love for murder mysteries, I found the serial killer storyline quite dull and actually wished it wasn’t included at all. Detectives Arakawa and Ryohei are interesting enough but their dynamic isn’t half as interesting as it could be and the plotline eventually goes nowhere, ending on a tame cliffhanger that will likely be concluded in the next volume. It should have been concluded in this volume itself because it drags on for no reason except for added gore.
The art is good and I like that we get a sense of Tokyo on every page. I am also pleased that artist Malo Kerfriden gave the characters, even the ones in the background, distinctive faces. My concern with a non-Asian drawing this comic was that all the characters would be made to look the same but that is fortunately not the case.
However, I have to wonder why two white men have created a story set in and about Japan. Neither Kerfriden nor writer Richard Marazano seem to have any connection to the country, and I wonder if part of their reason for creating this story is to show the West how exotic or strange Asian countries are? I can’t help but be suspicious about their motivations, even if their intentions are fair, because cultural appropriation is still a major problem in creative industries.
I hope the second volume sheds some light on where this meandering plot is meant to go, because as it stands, Otaku Blue is a story with a lot of promise and absolutely no payoff.
The Revenge of Count Skarbek 1: Two Golden Hands
Dan Christensen (translation), Cromatik Ltd. (letters), Grzegorz Rosinski (Aatist), Yves Sente (writer)
Dargaud Benelux (French, 2004), Europe Comics (English, 2019)
1843, Paris, France. Count Skarbek initiates a scandalous trial against famous art collector Daniel Northbrook, accusing him of theft and murder. As the trial progresses, shocking facts are revealed about a young painter named Louis Paulus, his muse Magadalena, and the sordid goings-on of the Paris art world.
I loved the watercolour art in this book, which matches not only the era the story is set in, but the cadences of a story about art and artists. The paintings within the story are beautiful to look at and the locations are particularly stunning.
As for the story itself, I didn’t care much for the structure. Flashbacks as a storytelling method have been overused and, even if the original story was written in 2004, it still seems dated. Most of the twists were predictable, and I found the plethora of nude women displayed as eye candy particularly annoying as they added very little to the story. I am certain this sentiment would have been shared by many even in 2004.
The other issue I had was with the decision to divide this story into two volumes, because the ending fizzles out instead of coming to a solid conclusion, which doesn’t make for great reading. I would have much preferred a self-contained story.
All in all, a decent read, if a predictable one.
Mini-Reviews: Ugh, no!
Shelley Volume 2
Daniel Casanave (Artist), Cromatik Ltd (Letters), James Hogan (Translation), Patrice Larcanet (Colours), Vandermeulen (Writer and Artist)
Dargaud-Lombard (French, 2012), Europe Comics (English, 2019)
I loved the first volume of Shelley, but this second and final installment leaves much to be desired. This book was meant to focus on Mary Shelley, and was even subtitled as such, but Mary is little more than a background character here, which I found extremely disappointing.
Percy Shelley, who made for a charming, albeit annoying, protagonist in Volume 1, is positively unbearable in this book. Not only does he come across as a callous buffoon, but he has little regard for the women in his life, or the children he inevitably sires. Alongside him, Byron comes across as a self-absorbed womanizer, who only cares about fame and his next romantic conquest. Not to mention how badly they treat their friend, John Polidori, a learned doctor and writer who is ordered about like a servant.
The most fascinating part of this story is the depiction of the plague that swept through Europe. The apocalyptic nature of such a pandemic is frightening to behold and artist Daniel Casanave portrays it beautifully. Unfortunately, a significant portion of this section of the book borders on the fantastical, which makes me wonder what the point was in including the plague. There’s nothing fantastical about the story up until that point. It seemed to be a historical retelling that suddenly turned into fantasy. The characters do not learn or grow from it.
I am deeply disappointed in this volume. A solid miss.
That’s all for now, folks. Come back next month to see what Izneo has for you!