Hedge Fund Volume 1: Money Men
Cromatik Ltd (Letters), Patrick Hénaff (Artist), Anne Howell (Translation), Christian Lerolle (Colours), Le Moal (Colours), Poupart (Colours), Tristan Roulot (Writer), Philippe Sabbah (Writer)
Lombard (French), Europe Comics (English)
July 17, 2019
Disclaimer: Izneo has provided WWAC with a VIP Access Pass.
Frank Carvale is at the end of his tether. He believes he is meant for big things in the world of finance, but his dead-end job at an insurance company sends him to clients who aren’t interested. But he finally gets a break—he’s headhunted by a multi-billionaire corporation and put in charge of a hedge fund. But does he really know what he’s doing?
A comic book about the murky, yet exciting world of finance isn’t something I’d normally find myself reading, but Hedge Fund sounded promising. It definitely delivers in the finance-related sections of the story. There’s a particularly exciting stock exchange subplot near the end of this first volume that was as thrilling as a car chase.
The back and forth about the ups and downs of money management were my favourite parts of Hedge Fund. But what I really enjoyed was that writers Tristan Roulot and Philippe Sabbah treated their readers with respect. They didn’t break down the dynamics of stock exchanges or the nitty-gritties of hedge fund management. We are thrust into this world and we need to sink or swim. I find that a far more exciting approach to comic book storytelling than dragging the reader down with endless exposition.
The story is Hedge Fund’s strongest suit, but I do wonder whether we needed as much setup as we got. I see how Frank’s first job ends up being tied into his present, but it often felt like the story didn’t quite know what setting to place Frank in. Is he an insurance salesman? Is he a stock broker? Is he a hedge fund manager? Is he an entrepreneur? He plays all these roles across 56 pages, but is constantly described as “very young” by the other characters. It seemed a bit incongruous to me.
What’s particularly surprising is that Frank really isn’t very good at anything he does. He failed so spectacularly as an entrepreneur that he had to flee France for Hong Kong. He is so bad at his insurance job, he is close to being fired before his new job rescues him. The only reason he thrives at his stock broker job is because the owner, Bilkaer, coaches him constantly. Which is also the reason why he gets the hedge fund manager role—Bilkaer is the one pushing for him. The rest of the board don’t believe in Frank, at all.
With good reason. As we see once Frank has access to the hedge fund, he is a complete disaster. He fails to make any investments until the very last minute, and that too by throwing his closest friends under the bus.
This brings me to one of the biggest problems I had with Hedge Fund—Frank. He is a terrible protagonist. There is absolutely nothing that recommends him; he is bad at everything, but he doesn’t own up to it. As far as Frank is concerned, his failures are everyone else’s fault. His friend bought the wrong scooters, so his company shut down. His bosses send him to bad clients. He’s been given too much money to invest. Honestly, Frank, life comes at you, fast, so suck it up.
My annoyance with Frank is exacerbated by the fact that he is absolutely horrid to his friends—unless they can do something for him, that is. He is more than happy to live in his friend Kate’s apartment till he can find his feet. But he never pays his share of the rent, which Kate has to make up for from her own pocket. Instead, he wastes his money on clothes and alcohol he can’t afford. And when he’s called out on it? Fury and self-pity. Frank is completely unable to see how his friend is being affected by his actions because he is too busy wallowing in his own ineptitude.
And this really comes back to bite Kate in the denouement of Hedge Fund. Frank uses intel from Kate to give his hedge fund some impetus, but he does so with such little regard for Kate, that she ends up in a situation that is painfully dire. Too many of us have friends like Frank, and in that sense, Hedge Fund hits far too close to home with its storytelling.
But speaking of Kate, Hedge Fund’s treatment of women is ridiculously backward. For the majority of the story, Kate is the only female to appear, and she is shown to be a domestic goddess, cooking and cleaning for her flatmates Alex and Frank. Can’t they cook? Why does the lone woman have to take care of everything? These scenes were so infuriating, I almost stopped reading.
It only gets worse—Kate’s arc, if you can call it that, revolves around her failing romance with her boyfriend, and her affair with Frank. And the only other women are girlfriends of Frank and his colleague. Essentially, Hedge Fund is another male-centric story where women exist only as romantic interests or sexual objects, to prop up the men. Because a story about finance can’t possibly have female characters in it for anything else. Women don’t know anything about money, do they?
It’s a shame that the writers were bogged down by their backward portrayals of women, because Hedge Fund has an exciting plot. The story is more than enough to compel you to read it, but if the depiction of one’s female characters is so gross and vile that the reader wants to toss the book across the room, you are alienating a very large section of your audience.
What Hedge Fund could have done instead was to incorporate more female characters in meaningful roles in the narrative. Maybe Frank could have been a woman (I would have loved this story so much more, in that case!).
It would have made for a far more interesting take on the world of finance had there been more relatable characters in this book. As it stands, this first volume of Hedge Fund is an engrossing read until it takes you out of the story and never lets you back in. Instead, it makes me want to look for a book on a similar topic by a female writer who would have brought in more nuance. *Sigh.*