Tuesday, January 6, 2015

5 x 5 Bande Dessinée Critique: L'autre laideur, l'autre folie

Different Ugliness, Different Madness by Marc Males
Published byHumanoids/DC Comics, 2005

1.  This 5 x 5 review also has a late to the party tag: apparently it was part of a short-lived DC Comics venture into publishing French graphic novels about ten years ago; I found it in the mark-down bins of a comic shop while I was waiting to take Wonder Wife to her birthday dinner last month.  I picked up several sale items that evening and this was the best of the lot, by far.

2.  This is a comic that has the feel of a French art film: slow-moving, quiet, and living in its details. It tells the story of two lost - or at least displaced - souls encountering one another in rural 1930s America, and its narrative is driven by small steps, tiny gestures, and unhurried interactions as opposed to action and conflict. There is a story arc, and the narrative structure includes flashbacks and flash-forwards, but as a reader I was less interested in rushing the plot forward and more interested in just watching how these people would behave as their circumstances unfolded.

3. But this is not a movie, it is a comic, and it is a wonderfully technique-driven one. You could use Different Ugliness, Different Madness as a course text to accompany Scott McCloud's books: excellent controlled and effective examples of the six forms of transition from Understanding Comics and the five choices from Making Comics seem to jump off the page. Males makes comics the way Hitchcock or DePalma make movies: with a thorough understanding of exactly what strings they are pulling to manifest their vision. And we relish experiencing every manifestation of their craft.

4. One odd note: I don't know if this was part of the original art design or something that happened in the translation process, but the lettering is smaller than it needs to be for the size of the word balloons. The result is a proportionality that reads more like whispering in most mainstream comics, but that is clearly not the intent, for it is used consistently even when it is obvious that voices are louder. It took a while to get used to, but then it just reinforced the feeling of an old movie.

5. The French idea of what a Depression-era American farmer looked like seemed a little off to me, but I am a city boy, so what do I know.

Si vous rencontrez cette bande dessinée, l'acheter! 
Vous ne le regretterez pas.

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