1 January 2013

Grandville Bete Noire by Bryan Talbot

After taking a break for a year Grandville came back to reclaim Christmas and, judging by my Twitter stream, many people were given it and they all loved it.

In my case it was bit of a cheat as I bought the book myself a couple of months ago when I had the opportunity to get it signed by Bryan Talbot. He has signed all three volumes for me so far and that is a tradition that I have every intention of continuing.

Grandville Bete Noir is a lovely book.

You know this from when you first pick it up. The book is beautifully constructed with a thick hard cover and heavy stock glossy paper.

The pages are A4 which makes the book a good solid size. You know that you have something special in your hands.

I read the book slowly and carefully just for the pure joy of turning the pages. I also washed my hands first.

The structure of the story is a little different this time. Right at the beginning we meet the bad guy and he tells us what he plans to do so the main plot is DI LeBrock trying to find out what we already know and then trying to stop it.

As with the other books the pages drip with references most of which are too arty for me, though even I recognised Paddington Bear.

It is also delightfully steampunk and the autogyro on page 93 is a joy to behold. We also get a quick reprise of the wheeled boots that opened the first book.

The range of animals seems to be a little wider this time with the usual woodland creatures supplemented by a gazelle and a crested newt, among others. We also have some humans this time, or "doughfaces" as the animals call them.

Grandville is visually rich in gadgets, characters, buildings, streetscapes and works of art (part of the story is set in the Louvre). That is another reason to read the book slowly.

Page 56 hit me when I first read it so I have used it as example of why I like Bryan's storytelling so much.

Most of the pages have a white background and the panels are edged in black but when the action gets hot the background turns black.

In all the panels there is solid black that bleeds in to the background disguising the shape of the panel.

Each panel is taken from a different perspective and distance.

The page is a sandwich with LeBrock motionless at the top and bottom and all the action across the middle.


The artwork is all that is needed to describe the action and the single word at the end is all that is needed to tell us what LeBrock thinks about it.

The page is the unit of work for a (printed) comic and Bryan is a master at page composition.

The flow between the pages works equally well and the story changes pace and mood nicely.

Grandville Bete Noire is exquisite in all regards. The wait for volume four has started.

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