Luc Besson's The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec, adapting the earlier volumes of Jacques Tardi's graphic novel series, opened last week at a solid #1 at the office in France (handily beating the only other major opening, the Matt Damon Iraq flick Green Zone), to generally positive reviews. There was general praise for the lead performance by Louise Bourgoin (although some reviewers familiar with the original comics lamented the "sweetening" of Tardi's cranky original), the special effects, and the fun-ride aspect of the movie, less enthusiasm for some of the broader farcical aspects, and a general consensus that the Paris-based sequences worked better than the Spielberg-ish Egypt-based ones.
Given the last few Besson movies, the reaction boiled down to "Whew! Better than we expected!"
Not many domestic reviews yet, except for the inevitable Variety. We can't link to it as this review is subscribers-only, but here are some excerpts:
"Take Indiana Jones and replace him with a knockout redhead, a slew of CGI and a somewhat bloated storyline, and you'll get an inkling of what lies behind Luc Besson's costumer/creature feature, The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec....most notable for newcomer Louise Bourgoin's captivating perf as a fearless, wisecracking heroine who — this being France — drinks, smokes and plays in the buff."
And, what we were waiting for: "Massive local rollout delivered a strong opening, and should venture beyond Francophone markets." Yes indeed!
They go on: "With handsome production values, polished visual effects and eye-popping locations (shot by Besson regular Thierry Arbogast) that include icons like the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, pic smoothly blends state-of-the-art CGI with a story set in pre-WWI France."
Cine-nerd note: Arbogast shot pretty much all of Besson's movies (think the glory days of Leon/The Professional and The Fifth Element), as well as the late-career Brian De Palma masterpiece Femme Fatale, Emir Kusturica's wacky Black Cat, White Cat, the absurd but compellingly watchable Penélope Cruz/Salma Hayek megacleavage western Bandidas (admit it, didn't that description tempt you to add it to your Netflix queue?), and, uh, cough, the Halle Berry Catwoman.
Variety also cites Gilles Lellouche's performance as the hapless Inspector Caponi as "amusing" and notes that Mathieu Almaric (the villain from Quantum of Solace) is "practically unrecognizable with pasty makeup and buck teeth."
And boy, they just can't get enough of Mademoiselle Bourgoin:
"...what frankly saves pic from its convoluted plot and boilerplate villains is Adele herself, thanks in no small part to the all-consuming performance of Bourgoin (who made a noteworthy debut in Anne Fontaine's 2006 The Girl from Monaco). Delivering lines with screwball timing, while sporting an assortment of disguises like a sexed-up Lon Chaney, she dominates practically every scene and makes us regret the ones without her."
No U.S. distributor or release date yet, but I'd be awfully surprised if it hasn't been grabbed by the time Cannes finishes up late next month.
• List: Adam McGovern of ComicCritique.Com declares Miss Lasko-Gross to be Writer/Artist of the Year ("Vividly imaginative in tricky layouts, intricate patterns and hallucinatory neverlands yet starkly perceptive of everyday details and personality, immune to art-star mythology while stockpiling stuff of legend, Lasko-Gross is capable of anything — but can’t help doing right") and her A Mess of Everything the #3 Graphic Novel of the Year ("Lasko-Gross creates the least wholesome and most healthy youth memoirs you’re likely to read. Tales of adolescent insight, creativity, trauma and folly for those who like to learn their lessons with minds of their own"); Gilbert Shelton's "Last Gig in Shnagrlig" from Mome Vols. 13-15 to be Strip of the Year ("With a style that seems strung from spider-webs, popping veins, worried brow-wrinkles and tangled vines and an eye for absurd posturing, both undiminished by five decades and whatever art-supplies he’s been sniffing, Shelton’s dystopian vaudeville is a vision you can never predict of species-wide misbehavior which remains, alas, just like you remembered it"); and Lilli Carré's "The Carnival" from Mome Vol. 14 to be Short Story of the Year ("A bittersweet, tragicfunny story of the luminous, enchanting worlds just beyond the outskirts of nowhere")
• Review: "I spent most of this week reading the new, paperback edition of Blazing Combat ... [T]he artistry on display is so mind-boggling, particularly in the case of Crandall, Heath and Severin, that it seems churlish of me to not recommend this book simply because of a few overly and obviously ironic twists. The creators clearly had a real love for this kind of material, so much so that [I] wish things had tipped slightly in their favor a bit more, and that the market had made at least a little more room for war comics when as the silver age gave way to the bronze." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "...I love the art, with great layouts, nice thick lines, and coloring that's somehow both rich and muted. Even when I don't like the characters or find their actions believable I still love the way everything looks. And the elliptical structure was a smart choice because it adds at least a little bit of mystery; instead of just reading to see what happens next you keep going to better understand what's already happened. I don't know if the stories were published individually anywhere, but Hallorave is basically the first book of King of the Flies, with two more on the way. I'm interested to see how closely they intersect with each other." – Garrett Martin, Shazhmmm...
• Review: "Based on a crime novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette, West Coast Blues is an existential comic by master cartoonist Jacques Tardi. It's colorless crime as only the French can do it, with despicable characters waxing philosophical on film and high-risk sex even while on the run from clumsy assassins. ... Plenty of crime stories revolve around the bizarre preoccupations of its characters and just as many are centered around the plight of the common man thrust into extraordinary circumstances. But Tardi really brings it home, offering a messed up story about messed up people who do some truly messed up things. While only 80 pages, it's a robust read. ... As compelling as this short yarn is in terms of the writing, the real draw here is Tardi. ... His style is comparable to Herge's, if not quite as clean. His characters are expressive and his architecture's pretty damn impressive. ... Big ups to Fantagraphics and editor/translator Kim Thompson for assembling a really lovely English language edition of this book." – Paul Montgomery, iFanboy
• Commentary: "You would think I'd have more to say about teaching 'Human Diastrophism,' one of my favorite comics in the classroom, but this was my fourth pass at the story and most of the classroom surprises have been played out. The greatest remaining challenge is just the problem of extracting one storyline from Gilbert Hernandez's long-running Palomar setting and fitting it into a single week of class discussion." – Marc Singer, I Am NOT the Beastmaster
• Interview:In this video, Vito Delsante talks to Jaime Hernandez at Jaime's appearance at Jim Hanley's Universe in NYC last Friday, April 9 (via ¡Journalista!)
• Interview: "'Digital vs. paper? That’s a totally bogus debate,' [Peter] Bagge told Wired.com in an e-mail interview. 'There will always be both. Whichever one you want, you got it!'" Well that solves that!
Online Commentary & Diversions — catching up from MoCCA weekend, with more catch-up tomorrow:
• Award: Congratulations to David Sandlin for receiving a 2010-2011 fellowship from the New York Public Library’s Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers. "The fellowship lasts from September to May. Each fellow gets an office in the library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, full access to the library’s research collections, and a stipend, which last year was $60,000," reports Kate Taylor of The New York Times. Not too shabby!
• Review: "Few people alive today are old enough to remember World War I, and as it recedes into the past, the 'war to end all wars' becomes more abstract. But French cartoonist Jacques Tardi's graphic novel, It Was The War of the Trenches..., brings the Great War to life in all its mud- and blood-soaked misery. Without a trace of sentimentality, Tardi's richly detailed and grimly rendered vignettes depict the horror, illness, cruel manipulations, and stupidity of this giant black spot in human history." – Mark Frauenfelder, Boing Boing
• Review: "Long-lost astronauts, homicidal bloggers, baseball legends and wayward skaters all find a home in John Pham’s captivating comic series Sublife. With only two issues on the street, Sublife has already established an achingly familiar universe in all of its disparate ongoing narratives. Deftly juggling the melancholy of Adrian Tomine’s Optic Nerve with some Cormac McCarthy-inspired apocalyptic action and plenty of skillfully subdued deadpan humor, Pham proves himself a master of multifarious emotions and artist stylings." – We Love You So
• Review: "While I enjoyed Sakai's artwork in the first volume, this second trade collection is even stronger. ... I'm so glad I'm finally sitting down and reading this series, and my only regret is that I didn't do it sooner. Usagi Yojimbo is a great addition to the canon of samurai stories, and is definitely highly recommended for anyone who is a fan of wandering ronin or just good storytelling." – Rob McMonigal, Panel Patter
• Review: "Culture Corner remains a curiosity in comic book history, rarely remembered, rarely seen, but Basil Wolverton’s status as an important figure in humor cartooning is unimpeachable. Thus, anybody wanting to understand the development of the medium and the evolution of comedy cartooning should pick up Culture Corner to see how Wolverton began the road to comic book legend. Most of the strips have never been seen by today’s readers, and the sheer number of unpublished penciled sketches makes this book a true rarity and a must-have." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "I can honestly say that the further we dive into the murky depths of Newave!, the better it gets. Hot on the heels of all the anarchic fun of the first thirty mini comics, come ten more that show, in various ways, a little extra sophistication in content or execution." – Avoid the Future continues their mini-reviews of the contents of Newave! The Underground Mini Comix of the 1980s; this is from part 4, and I think we may have missed linking to part 2 and part 3
• Plug: At IdeaFixa, Claudio Yuge says that reading Love and Rockets "was one of the best things I ever did in life and I recommend it for anyone who likes comics and graphic arts in general." (translated from Portuguese)
• Commentary:Comic Book Galaxy's Christopher Allen & Alan David Doane comment on this year's Eisner nominees, of which we have several; there's too much for me to quote from here
• Interview:Comic Book Resources' Shaun Manning talks to Jim Woodring about Weathercraft: "In a lot of ways, Manhog is the most interesting character in the Unifactor. He has the most potential for change and the widest range of dramatic possibilities. Besides, it's fun to put him in awful circumstances and watch him suffer. There's something about a big fat guy screaming in terror that's just naturally funny. Oliver Hardy got a lot of mileage out of that formula."
• Interview: The Inkstuds radio programme talks with Mome contributor (and, now, kids-comics superstar) Eleanor Davis
...in France, with the world premiere in Brussells tomorrow. Still no announcement of U.S. distribution for Luc Besson's adaptation of Jacques Tardi's ADELE BLANC-SEC (we're still hoping it will open here when we debut the first volume of our new translation of the original comics at Comic-Con), but here's the final trailer, with lots and lots of new footage:
We are exceedingly pleased to report that Fantagraphics publications and artists received a record 18 nominations for the 2010 Eisner Awards. To celebrate, we're offering these titles at 18% off for a limited time! Click here for the full sale selection. (Sale is valid for online and phone orders only.) Winners will be announced at a ceremony on Friday, July 23, 2010 at Comic-Con International in San Diego. Congratulations to all the nominees! Fantagraphics' nominations are as follows:
• Best Adaptation from Another Work: West Coast Blues, by Jean-Patrick Manchette, adapted by Jacques Tardi • Best U.S. Edition of International Material: West Coast Blues, by Jean-Patrick Manchette, adapted by Jacques Tardi
• List: Look out, it's Tom Spurgeon's Best of 2009 list at The Comics Reporter. Fantagraphics category rankings are listed below, with complete lists and Tom's commentary to be found at the link above:
• Review: "Somehow, some way, Jamie Hernandez is getting better and better. ...Locas, the first gigantic hardcover compilation of Jamie’s 'Maggie and Hopey' stories, stands as one of the highlights of my life as a reader. Now, unbelievably, Locas II exceeds the original’s standard. ... In Locas II: Maggie, Hopey and Ray, he’s crafted perhaps his most universal work to date, a saga of three people who’ve left behind the postures of their youth to stumble, unsure and hesitant, across the landscape of their adult lives. It’s strange and scary, funny and sweet, confused and enlightening. Locas II is a master as the top of his game, and a true comic book classic." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "It is interesting to see the rapid evolution of the graphics and drawings [in Prince Valiant Vol. 1: 1937-1938], a little reticent and schematic at first, but soon becoming highly detailed and expressive. Adventure prevailed in the stories, but there was room for humor, romance and tragedy." – Top Comics (translated from Portuguese)
• Review: "OK sure but trust me it's not for those who just want to look at dumbed down pictures and drool on themselves as anorexic telepathic women parade in wonder bras nor is this Babar's color by number. [The Portable] Frank is engaging on all levels and asks the reader to not just lose themselves but to participate fully and that's why this is my pick of the week!!" – Coast City Comics
• Plug: "This book is amazing and bat%$#* crazy. There are no words, just check it out of the library asap." – Cold Bullets
• Review: "There are two types of war stories: war as the great human drama, man accomplishing amazing feats in the most horrible of circumstances, or war as the great human tragedy, the ultimate loss of life without any rhyme or reason. Tardi’s book fits very firmly into the latter category. ... Ink-soaked and gory, Tardi’s detailed renderings drive home the grotesquery of the war and the ordeal of the young men fighting in it. ...It Was the War of the Trenches creates an aura of loss, regret and terror." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "The quality of [Gilbert] Hernandez's cartooning is unassailable. Part of the reason [High Soft Lisp] is so hard to quantify is his uncanny ability to shift focus on a moment's notice, effortlessly jumping from one character to another, suggesting whole thought processes and histories with just a handful of images." – Jason Michelitch, Comics Alliance
• Review: "The sort of horror Columbia presents in Pim & Francieworks even better without the trappings of recitation and the cause and effect on which they depend. This sort of dread-inducing fright functions without regard to the recognizable comforts of logic and the niceties of narration. This is visceral, elemental terror that generally festers below — or alongside invisibly — human reckoning. ... Frontwards, backways, sneak-a-peek sideways, it all packs a monumentally disturbing wallop." – Rich Kreiner, "Yearlong Best of the Year," The Comics Journal
• Plugs: The Gosh! Comics Blog highlights recent arrivals Penny Century by Jaime Hernandez ("This volume picks up right after Perla La Loca left off, beginning with the now out-of-print graphic novel Whoa Nellie! which is probably the best female wrestling comic in town") and It Was the War of the Trenches by Jacques Tardi ("Since only a fraction ofTrenches was ever available to us English-speaking folk it’s a nice to see the whole lot of it in one place.")
• Panel:The Comics Journal presents the first part (of three) of a never-before-published panel discussion between Charles Burns , Chip Kidd, Seth and Chris Ware, moderated by Jeet Heer, that occurred October 29, 2005 at the International Festival of Authors in Toronto, Canada
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch 's Brian Heater, who says "Released late last month, Fantagraphics’ massive collection, Newave, has already made a strong case for its place on 2010’s list of most essential reissues," talks to the book's editor Michael Dowers: "I’ve always been into art and stuff, so I thought that [minicomics] would be fun to do. I used to do paintings, I did a bunch of wood carving, I built a few stringed instruments. I was always doing things with my hands. It wasn’t until I discovered minicomics that it just all came together. I never dreamed that, 30 years later, I would be writing a book about this stuff."
World War I, that awful, gaping wound in the history of Europe, has long been an obsession of Jacques Tardi’s. (His very first — rejected — comics story dealt with the subject, as does his most recent work, the two-volume Putain de Guerre.) But It Was the War of the trenches is Tardi’s defining, masterful statement on the subject, a graphic novel that can stand shoulder to shoulder with Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front and Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms.
Tardi is not interested in the national politics, the strategies, or the battles. Like Remarque, he focuses on the day to day of the grunts in the trenches, and, with icy, controlled fury and disgust, with sardonic yet deeply sympathetic narration, he brings that existence alive as no one has before or since. Yet he also delves deeply into the underlying causes of the war, the madness, the cynical political exploitation of patriotism. And in a final, heartbreaking coda, Tardi grimly itemizes the ghastly human cost of the war, and lays out the future 20th century conflicts, all of which seem to spring from this global burst of insanity.
Trenches features some of Tardi’s most stunning artwork. Rendered in an inhabitually lush illustrative style, inspired both by abundant photographic documentation and classic American war comics, augmented by a sophisticated, gorgeous use of Craftint tones, Trenches is somehow simultaneously atypical and a perfect encapsulation of Tardi’s mature style. It is the indisputable centerpiece of Tardi’s oeuvre.
It Was the War of the Trenches has been an object of fascination for North American publishers: RAW published a chapter in the early 1980s, and Drawn and Quarterly magazine serialized a few more in the 1990s. But only a small fraction of Trenches has ever been made available to the English speaking public (in now out of print publications); the Fantagraphics edition, the third in an ongoing collection of the works of this great master, finally remedies this situation.
“‘The war to end all wars’ has become a magisterial comic book to end all comic books. I seldom give blurbs, but this book is an essential classic. Among all of Jacques Tardi's towering achievements as a comics artist, nothing looms larger than this devastating crater of a work. It’s a compulsively readable wail of Existential despair, a kaleidoscope of war’s dehumanizing brutality and of Everyman’s suffering, as well as a deadpan masterpiece of the darkest black humor. The richly composed and obsessively researched drawings — perfectly poised between cartoon and illustration — march to the relentless beats of Tardi’s three horizontal panels per page to dig a hole deep inside your brain. This is one Hell of a book.” —Art Spiegelman
"Tardi’s depiction of the First World War is so impassioned and visceral that it can be compared to the work of the artists who actually served in the trenches." – Joe Sacco
144-page black & white 6.5" x 9.75" softcover • $16.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-318-7
At Comics Alliance, Douglas Wolk calls it "The most riveting, chilling graphic novel I've read so far this year" and "a great, shockingly dark piece of work." At Comics Comics, Joe McCulloch describes this correctly as "the newest of Fantagraphics ‘classic’ line of tall(-ish), thin(ner) softcovers, an all-Beto book collecting short stories featuring the character Fritz." The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon calls this and Penny Century below "Some of the best comics in the world..."
240-page black & white 7.5" x 9.25" softcover • $18.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-342-2
This is "another 240-page entry in the short(er), fat(ter) line of catch-up-quick softcovers which you can promise yourself to, body and soul, in the hopes of an eventually comprehensive reading experience," says Comics Comics' Joe McCulloch, who also declares "my heart belongs to the 1996 miniseries Whoa, Nellie!, a leaner-than-usual action piece adoringly dotted with monolithic images of lady wrestlers in action – it’s like a superhero comic of the period, only just perfectly different enough." Douglas Wolk at Comics Alliance says "It's all great — I'm not sure Jaime could draw a bad comic if he tried..."
120-page black & white 7.75" x 10.5" hardcover • $24.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-353-8
At The Comics Reporter Tom Spurgeon declares "I'd say this is the release of the week: one of the great works from one of the great, important cartoonists." Comics Comics' Joe McCulloch says of Tardi "few artists possess dual OG certification with RAW and Heavy Metal" and calls the book "a human patchwork of WWI service, perhaps the artist’s keystone work." At Comics Alliance, Douglas Wolk describes it as "Tardi's ferocious graphic novel about the horrors of war in general and World War I in particular..."
104-page b&w/color 7.5" x 10.25" softcover • $18.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-284-5
Joe McCulloch sums it up at Comics Comics: "You may have missed this too, when Fantagraphics released it as a hardcover in 2004 – now these 104 pages of vintage Humorama digest illustrations won’t run you $78.99 new, if you believe Amazon sellers." Tom Spurgeon recalls that the original hardcover edition of this "was a really nice book" in his Comics Reporter recommendation.
Previews and information a-plenty can be had at the links above so you can gather knowledge before you gather your wallet and head out to your local shop.