Monday, February 05, 2007

Project BD books 6 and 7

W.E.S.T. – Century Club
Script: Xavier Dorison and Fabien Nury
Art: Christian Rossi
Published by Dargaud 2005

This book is the conclusion to the story started in La Chute de Babylone. Plot wise, everything seems to wrap up nicely albeit in a more or less run of the mill good guys have a plan that outsmarts the bad guys’ plan. And yet it is pulled of in a manner, location and style that although you’ve seen it before you enjoy nonetheless for the original aspects presented here. The Buffalo World’s Fair is the location to kill the president and vice president to install the antagonist Senator in the presidency.

We learn more about the power behind the power, so to speak. The shadowy figure who has been controlling America’s elite from behind the scenes with his unstoppable cloaked killers and mystic tattoo that is seen only in reflections as a mark of that person’s bond to the true enemy. Basically, people were offered a deal with the devil that when it was paid up was never what the person intended to pay. One guy is actually given the heart of the woman he wanted to love him, while most tend to lose their first born son. It’s also explained the connections between the current story and Hammurabi’s Babylon.

There was an ancient magician who helped install Hammurabi as king but when the sorcerer came for payment he demanded the first born son of everyone who asked him for a favour. Hence, the fall of Babylon, which would makes the first volume’s title make a lot more sense. We finally get to see the parallels between Babylon and present day America (in the story). That’s really my only complaint, the titles seem mismatched. The last volume was more about the Century Club and this one more about the fall of Babylon but honestly, that’s it. Which is rare with me and comics these days. Usually I have a plethora of underhanded jabs at works I enjoyed.

Anyway, there’s some cool old-west gunfights in the middle of New York, Alistair Crowley is revealed to be the evil sorcerer supreme, the leader of the good-guys is basically Batman with a white handlebar mustache, there’s a bad ass fight with a stone-cold killer who had all his nerves severed (or something along those lines) so the pip-squeak sharp shooter of the group takes him out Doom style with a shotgun, President McKinley gets killed, there’s a fun twist on a daring prison rescue, and some poetic justice is handed out to the antagonist senator in the form of his wife, who has been driven to drink, with a clever.

All in all, this book needs an English translation or someone to point one out to me. And I think once and for all, the series is actually French from what I can tell online. I should be more discerning in my claims and maybe research them quickly once in a while.

Here's Christian Rossi's blurb on

Asterix chez les Breton
Words: Rene Goscinny
Art: Albert Uderzo
Published: Hachette 1999 reprint

I picked up this volume purely on the promise of Asterix and Obelix playing rugby. I wasn’t disappointed. Being a bit of an Anglophile it was fun to see how the French, and the rest of continental Europe for that matter, view the English Isle.

As with previous volumes you don’t really need to know much of the history of the characters because it gets explained at the beginning like old school Marvel books. By that I mean, concisely and outside of the story itself. Also, just like the other volumes the more you learn about the history of the time the more you realize how intelligent the stories are. In this one, Britain is occupied by the Celts, the Breton, the Gauls, the Danes and pretty much any sea-faring northern nation when the Romans arrived. But we’re not too worried about historic accuracy, even though it’s there.

What we’re concerned with here is whether or not Asterix and Obelix get to beat up some Romans. They do.

Along the way they poke fun at Asterix’s tweed wearing cousin, warm beer and boiled meat with mint jelly. Throughout the book there’s countless jokes about the Romans and our Gaullish heroes looking for Gaulish wine, which as you would know is French Wine. And Obelix is constantly disgusted with the boiled meat and how the Brits drink hot water at 5 p.m. every day, and pretty much any other time they can.

It’s pointed out how Jolitorax, Asterix’s cousin, is from the Cambridge tribe, so he’s an accomplished rower. This, of course, making reference to the annual Cambridge Oxford 3-mile boat race on the Thames which Cambridge dominated from about the twenties to about the mid-seventies (which should accomodate the printing of this volume). I used to live by Hammersmith Bridge so could watch the end of the race during my last year in London. There’s also the fierce gardener who manicures his lawn and won’t let anyone onto it, the Tower of Londinium, a fun spoof of the sculpture of the goddess Diana mounting(here crushing) her deer, umbrellas, double decker buses, The Beatles, fog and rain, and the rugby game which gets all the locals riled up. The only thing that was less obvious to me in this volume were the puns in the names. Not being able to find my French-English dictionary didn’t help here and I’m not about to do some retroactive searching online, I’ll just accept they went over my head and move on with my life.

Now, plok pointed this out in the comments for the last Project BD post. These books are beautiful to look at. It’s not just the expressive characters, it’s the colours used and the dynamic layouts of the images themselves. During the rugby game, one team is literally twice the size of the other. Whenever someone asks to shake Obelix’s hand, and he happily obliges, the picture of them being bashed about makes you feel dizzy. This is something that feels lost outside of the Disney Duck Comics and Hellboy. Brightly coloured characters that don’t have to be real can better express a situation and make that situation pleasing to the eye of the reader.

It’s strange, there are a lot of more adult situations here that wouldn’t go by well to the conservative North American market. No sex, but there’s a lot of drunken fights, more drunkenness and just plain old regular fights. But because these characters are cartoony looking they look to be in more pain and more hung-over than they would otherwise. Feeling and emotion isn’t just presented in the posing of the character but also in how they are coloured. Bruised eyes, red noses, green or red faces. It all helps make the information readily available and fun to look at.

Do yourself a favour and pick up some translations of this French Superman when you’re looking for something along the lines of Scrooge McDuck or just something that will make you simply happy.

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