Crossing Borders: Never Trust Your Heroes


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From one tragedy to another we focus on the father son dynamic with Heroes We’ll Never Be and Maarten Vandewiele’s delicate investigations of Guy de Maupassant’s Monsieur Bermutier.

Heroes We’ll Never Be by Jouvray and Salsedo

A true Greek tragedy in every sense of the word, Heroes We’ll Never Be explores the father / son dynamic from the son’s point of view. The tragic undercurrent of the relationship comes to the front through numerous humoristic situations. From the reader it elicits that most honest of responses: you laugh the most with the things that hurt.

Mick leaves a slacker life until the death of his grand mother. While visiting his estranged and disabled father, he accepts his offer to accompany him on a world wide road trip in exchange for a hefty paycheck. But you can’t travel together without acceptance of the other’s faults and Mick will find himself on a very strange journey down memory lane indeed.

Though writer Olivier Jouvray never subsides to gallows humour. He does use humour to emphasize the painful relationship between Mick and his father often leading to really hilarious moments but he never forgets to spread information around as to how exactly these lives became so dysfunctional. Much praise also goes to Jouvray for not taking the easy way out and progressing things to its logical conclusion.

Artist Fred Salsedo’s drawings combines both realism and a certain degree of cartoonism in his drawings to great effect. His backgrounds tend to be realistic with his figure and facial work slightly exaggerated. His slumped characters reflect the surly mood accurately but most importantly, he never missed a beat in both the emotional and comedic timing.

L’Enfer c’est les autres said Sartre and no relationship is as fragile and yet so sturdy as between a child and his parents. Wrapped in the cloth of comedy, Heroes We’ll Never Be is a very human story about loss and about how different people deal with it in different ways and about responsiblities in its many different appearances. I recommend this comic heartily. 

Heroes We’ll Never be is published by Blloan. It is a full colour oversized hardcover counting 88 pages and retails for €16,95.

Monsieur Bermutier by Maarten Vande Wiele

Best known in the english reading parts of the world for his trash graphic novel Paris, published by Knockabout, Maarten Vande Wiele exemplifies at a retro esthetic, filtered through a keen sense of fashion. Paris, set in the world of contemporary fashion was an ideal vehicle for Vande Wiele to show off his skills. It also highlighted a particular problem with pacing and overstuffed panels, cluttering the eye. In Monsieur Bermutier however, Vande Wiele succeeds in elevating all these concerns and tries a different narrative approach.

Monsieur Bermutier, the inscrutable detective from literary writer Guy de Maupassant, hunts for con men, murderers and ghosts. Dark secrets come to light and not all is as it seems to be.

Vande Wiele tackles 5 short stories of famous misanthrope Maupassant and tries out slightly different approaches for each of them. The one thing they have in common is that they are all coloured with water colours and most importantly, Vande Wiele opens up the pages by letting the drawings breathe. On the one hand he drops panel borders and sincerely limits the amount of panels on a page. On the other hand he drops backgrounds altogether, providing situational settings by objects and fashion. It is a smart move for an artist that is primarily an illustrator and is a big step forward for his storytelling abilities.

What he has working against him though are both the stories themselves and his inability to convey subtle emotions in his posturing and facial work. Guy de Maupassant’s stories can hardly be called sophisticated mysteries. The quality of the story depends on how it is told, not what is told. Though Vande Wiele tries hard, his efforts fall largely flat. To much of Maupassant’s prose has been cut, leaving the barest of prose skeletons and the storytelling of the visuals is just not strong enough to carry the emotional content despite the atmospheric colouring.

Though it represents a step forward in his storytelling abilities, Maarten Vande Wiele’s adaptations of several short stories of Guy de Maupassant is first and foremost a pretty book that feels inconsequential after closing the covers.    

Monsieur Bermutier by Maarten Vande Wiele is published by Oogachtend. Is a full colour oversized softcover counting 96 pages and retails for €18.

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