‘A Detective-Inspector LeBrock of Scotland Yard Scientific-Romance Thriller’
Written and Illustrated by Bryan Talbot
Published by Dark Horse Books
The first thing that strikes you about this book is it’s beauty. The embossed, textured hard cover; thick, heavy stock of the pages and glossiness of the images. This is an object to be admired.
We open on a view of Paris from the gutter, but not the City of Light that we know. This one has a monorail and Zeppelins circling the Eiffel tower. An Otter in a top-hat is fleeing in a steam-driven stage-coach from a pistol-packing menagerie on steam bikes. All of this is shown in wide panels, setting the action movie tone like the pre-credits sequence in a Bond film. After causing an explosion and using it as a diversion the Otter escapes to England.
Now eight pages in Talbot gives us the title page and some shout-outs to his inspirations. The French caricaturist Jean Ignace Isidore Gerard (who worked as J.J. Grandville), fellow French Illustrator Albert Robida, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Rupert the Bear and Quentin Tarantino. I should stop the review here, that line up of names says more about this book than any paltry words I can muster up. But for the sake of form I will soldier on.
The scene shifts to a pastoral English village and a trio of coppers arguing over a dead Otter. In looms an enormous badger in an overcoat, Detective Inspector LeBrock of Scotland Yard.
LeBrock soon introduces his sidekick, Detective Ratzi and we follow them as they follow the clues that lead back to France. It’s only here that Talbot gives us an expository caption. France won the Napoleonic Wars and has kept most of Europe in thrall ever since. Britain was granted independence 23 years ago after a campaign of civil disobedience and anarchist bombing. I really liked that he waited till the story was up and had its feet under it till he felt he had to give us a brief explanation.
Bryan Talbot has been creating great comics for over thirty years, (one day when my writing is up to it I will tackle a review of his amazing Alice in Sunderland) and all his skill and experience shines through in this book. His design sense is excellent both from the actual package of the book and through the panel layouts within.
His art is excellent with beautifully designed and expressively drawn characters. He has a great way of showing expression on the faces of these varied animals he has come up with and I love the posture he gives them. When turning or moving they seem so real. He excels at then chopping up a sequence into smaller panels to show speed and zoom in on action but then panning back into big panel wide images.
Grandville is a highly enjoyable comic by a creator at the the height of his powers. It has a distinct European feel to it that is only enhanced by the numerous references to Tintin. LeBrock is a great new character, a smart, savvy investigator who is a brute at hand-to-hand combat and the world he travels through is richly developed and with a weight of history you can feel.
There is something about talking animal comics (or anthropomorphic animal comics) that is very accessible to non-comics readers. Grandville was one of the first comics that my girlfriend loved so much she bought it as a present for friends. She feels the same way about Blacksad and Elephantmen. Now the aside from the fact that they are all excellent, well told, self-contained, beautifully drawn books they also all feature large talking animals with guns.
Should I buy it? Grandville is the steampunk detective-noir comic you didn’t know you needed. I highly recommend it as a gift for non-comics readers
Next Week: Another book that I feel does not get enough attention, the post-apocalyptic awesomeness of Wasteland by Antony Johnston and Chris Mitten.