10.15.2009

Grandville Review

Grandville
(Jonathan Cape Ltd.)
Review by Jason Crowe
Contributing Writer

Bryan Talbot’s work on Grandville plays to his strengths as a creator of alternate fantasy universes centered on British culture and history. Talbot’s previous miniseries of Luther Arkwright stories focused on the noble bloodlines, mysticism, and magic of the British Isles. The 98-page graphic novel Grandville explores a Britain populated by anthropomorphic animals and recently emerged from two centuries of oppressive French rule established during the Napoleonic War.

This version of Britain overthrew the French rulers through a series of anarchist actions that exhausted the will of the government. Twenty years after this anarchist revolt and two years after a terrorist attack in Paris, Scotland Yard Detective Inspector Archie LeBrock investigates a country mansion locked-room suicide that leads to an international conspiracy and an explosive climax in Paris.

LeBrock is an imposing badger of impressive stature; one character comments that he has “…a chest like a bloody beer barrel.” LeBrock’s deductive methods reflect the insight expected of Scotland Yard, combined with brutal physical combat. Talbot thanks Quentin Tarantino in the introduction, and he includes homage to the interrogation scene from Reservoir Dogs. The anthropomorphic nature of characters takes some of the edge off the brutality; Talbot firmly places the violence in the turbulent context of the world the characters live in.

Talbot is upfront about acknowledging other influences on this story, such as Reed Waller’s groundbreaking anthropomorphic comic Omaha and Herge’s Tintin. I found Talbot’s writing and artwork fully realized with a tremendous attention to detail, which is a hallmark for him. A new development is Talbot’s use of computer-generated patterns for background details such as rugs, wallpaper, and bank notes. He uses them sparingly and in an appropriate manner that shows their strength in adding intricate layers to a panel.

Talbot’s artwork highlights his masterful sense of color and composition; I especially enjoyed a panel where LeBrock meets the British ambassador to France. The characters faces are framed by a blue curtain, white painted walls and a red leather chair that suggest the colors of the French flag. Talbot’s style is evident from the handsome embossed three-color cover to the endpapers to the computer-generated font based on his hand lettering.

I hope that Talbot composes a sequel to this “scientific-romance thriller.” Grade A.

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