Well, it’s been a year since I started this series; time to reflect back, assess what’s working and what’s not.
I started A. Book’s Review to review the illustrated and graphic novels I read. The purpose was to share the good Indie published books with other like minded readers and have a bit of fun in the process. By doing this I: a) hoped to find really good books, which I did; and b) promote the well deserving creators of those book, which, well, I’m not sure I have.
Furthermore, in my efforts to maintain a weekly series, not only has the fun become work, but I have had to compromise my mission. If I continue at this pace, I feel the quality of my reviews and thus the value they have for readers will diminish.
Fear not, faithful readers, this does not mean an end to A. Book’s Review nor the shelving of Alistair Book. Instead, I will be posting less frequently, when I have the leisure of enjoying those books on my shelf waiting to be read.
Thanks to one viewer’s suggestion (Ryk, I haven’t forgotten), I will broaden my scope to include web comics that are of a literary nature. Actually, I have already done this with Alone, a collection of Olivia Stephens’ web comic.
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Cruising Through the Louvre by David Prudhomme, is the latest release in the Louvre editions published in English by NBM Comics Lit.
The author is Cruising Through the Louvre searching for his wife who has gone home. Commenting that he feels as if he were in a giant comic book, he narrates through phone conversations and internal voice, observing how people interact with the artwork — from being a part of it to mimicking the compositions.
To further integrate people with artwork, David has drawn both in the same style with colored pencils, which enables him to vary textures, color intensity, and level of detail. I have to admit, I like colored pencils for that reason, and this is a wonderful example of the medium.
Cruising through the Louvre is a humorous look at how people view and respond to great works of art, making it a great work itself.
Of all the Louvre editions, Phantoms of the Louvre by Enki Bilal, is the one most integrated with the museum. In 2013, these images were actually exhibited at the Louvre.
Not so much a graphic novel, but a collection of short tales, Phantoms of the Louvre captures the spirits of people — virtually all of whom met and untimely and tragic end — intertwined with pieces of art. Each “chapter” contains a 2-page spread that recounts the fates of those people.
The artwork is brilliantly created: desaturated photographs of artwork, artifacts, and galleries were printed on canvas, over which Enki painted the phantoms in acrylic, then accented with pastels. The expressions reflect the lives and deaths of those ghosts.
Phantoms of the Louvre contains captivating, imaginative stories behind iconic works of art that span seven millennia, paying homage to the muses, assistants, and ordinary people whose lives crossed paths with those of the now immortalized artists.
Calling itself a graphic poem, An Enchantment by Christian Durieux, continues the mysterious, after hours theme found in other books in the Louvre editions series.
The guest of honor sneaks out of his own retirement party to roam the Louvre, where he meets a young woman, who shouldn’t be there after hours. Together they playfully avoid guards, ending up in front of one particular painting.
Christian cleverly poses the two characters to replicate several pieces of artwork. His clear-line drawings have a mid-century feel to them. The palette is a warm, sepia-like tone with muted red and light blue accents drawn with a delicate hand that creates an intimate setting, rich with detail.
An Enchantment is just that: a delightful, dream-like evening. It creates a world that beckons the reader to become part of the magic.
On the Odd Hours by Eric Liberge, is part of the Louvre editions published in English by NBM Comics Lit.
A young deaf man with no career ambitions finds his ideal job working ‘on the odd hours’ as a night watchman at the Louvre; or more correctly, the job finds him.
His unique ability to communicate with the souls of the artwork, enables him to help them come to life at night. Initially, this sends him running, but he soon realizes the importance of his gift.
This paperback is packed with small panels that move the story along. Eric’s palette is subdue and dark, creating a mysterious night-time atmosphere, even during the day scenes.
A tale in which a seemingly nobody has great power, On the Odd Hours peeks into the magic hidden in the world of silence.
Glacial Period by Nicolas De Crécy, was the first book in the Louvre Editions series.
A group of archaeologists in the next Ice Age, or Glacial Period, stumble upon the Louvre while searching for an ancient civilization under the barren wasteland.
At a time when all human history has been forgotten, they come to their own “scientific” conclusions about Western culture based on the images, especially the nudes, in the museum paintings, thinking they were a record of daily life and human history up to the twenty-first century.
An interesting premise for a story, but this is Nicolas De Crécy: illogical assumptions lead to absurd conclusions in this farce. It is up to the artwork to set the archaeologists straight. Oh, and the dogs can talk.
The illustrations of the artwork vary from recognizable representations to renderings in the same classic-styled sketch with watercolor shading as the narrative.
Glacial Period takes a satirical look at what our art says about us and leaves the reader wondering what conclusions we have jumped to with regards to ancient cultures.
Rohan at the Louvre by Hirohiko Araki, is another in the Louvre Editions published in English by NBM Comics Lit.
As a teen, Rohan meets a young soon-to-be divorcée. She tells him a story about a cursed painting, rumored to be at the Louvre, before she mysteriously disappears one night.
Fast-forward ten years later when Rohan visits Paris to seek out this painting. The work is hidden away in a forgotten storage area—for good reason.
Those familiar with Hirohiko Araki’s work will recognize Rohan from the shonen manga Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure series. Like that series, Araki, employs his unconventional color schemes here. The scenes in Japan are depicted in yellow tones while those in Paris are predominately pink and blue. His JoJo-dachi style features exaggeratedly lean bodies with beautiful features, viewed from dramatic angles.
A word of warning: Araki’s work is influenced by his love of horror movies; the scenes depicting the painting’s curse are rather violent in nature.
The only problem I had with this story was, as a character from another series, Rohan’s power of being able to read people like a book, both figuratively and literally, seems out of place in a story about an art museum.
That said, Rohan at the Louvre is an engaging story full of mystery and intrigue.
Starting this week and running until the end of January, I will be reviewing books in the Louvre editions series, published in English by NBM Publishing’s Comics Lit.
Not in any particular order, I start with The Sky Over the Louvre, by Bernar Yslaire and Jean-Claude Carrière.
A historical docudrama, The Sky Over the Louvre recounts the early days of the Louvre as it transitioned from a palace to a museum. It takes place during the Reign of Terror, so be warned, there are some rather disturbing aspects of the story.
French Revolutionary artist Jacques-Louis David is commissioned to paint one image, but instead obsesses over creating another that, ironically, does not hang in the Louvre.
With an emphasis on the beauty of the male form, elongated figures — that some may find elegant, while others may find grotesque — grace the pages. Facial expressions have a melancholy that reflects the tumultuous times of the setting.
But what I found most striking about the illustrations was the use of white line, a technique I have not yet seen in American sequential art.
The Sky Over the Louvre is the sort of book that will evoke a visceral response. While the story deals with the pursuit of perfection, it is the illustrations that have the greater impact.
This series completes this year’s Reading Around the World Challenge, with the Aya series by Ivorian Marguerite Abouet, illustrated by Clément Oubrerie compiled into two volumes, Life in Yop City and Love in Yop City, published in English by Drawn and Quarterly.
This coming of age story takes place in a working-class neighborhood of Abidjan, affectionately known as “Yop City” to locals. The year is 1978, when the Ivory Coast was at its economic peak. Aya is a high school student with dreams of becoming a doctor. Her two friends prefer to go dancing and hang out with boys.
Starting as a first-person narrative that becomes omniscient as the story expands to encompass those of her friends, the series covers themes of friendship & family, and the empowerment of women in a traditional society, as Aya and her mother have to fix the problems the men in their lives create.
Clément recreates the heart of Abidjan through illustrations drawn in a style that reflects the sense of hope for a bright future this period instilled.
Life in Yop City and Love in Yop City show that the dreams and loves of young women are the same the world over.
The Arrival by Shaun Tan is one of those books on most graphic novel “must read” lists, and for good reason.
A first-generation Australian, Shaun Tan was inspired by his own father’s emigration from Malaysia. He tells a tribute tale without words in this nuanced book.
Based on stories and anecdotes from immigrants, it weaves a multitude of tales into one, capturing the essence of immigration: why people leave their homeland, the problems they have to deal with in a foreign land, and finally making a new home.
The pace varies from intimate second-to-second imagery to a 2-page spread of 60 different cloud images to show time passing at sea.
Even though the story is without narration or dialogue, words do appear in the illustrations. These, however, have been cleverly written in a non-roman script to give an English-speaking audience an idea of what many new arrivals face.
Shaun uses photographs and paintings from Australian archives, as well as those from Ellis Island, New York, to create illustrations in gray and sepia tones. While much of the art is realistic, there are also touches of whimsy to delight audiences of all ages.
One thing to note: although considered a children’s book, it does contain dream-like scenes depicting the horrors from which many have escaped.
The Arrival is a tender treatment that gives many in places like Australia and the United States an idea of what their ancestors went through so that they can enjoy the life they have.