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  • Words: Regis Hautière
  • Art: Renaud Dillies
  • Colors: Christophe Bouchard
  • Publisher: NBM Publishing
  • Price: $22.99
  • Release Date: Mar 18, 2013

At times, both whimsical and melancholy, Abelard transcends the artform as an example of exquisite storytelling.

Here is a story that would never be published by a mainstream North American publisher.

Abelard is the story of a naïve, young sparrow, who suddenly finds the world is far larger and more complex than he ever imagined. Spurred by desire to win the stars for an idealized young “chick” he only ever met once, Abelard sets forth on a journey to America from his isolated marsh in the backwaters of Russia. Set around the turn of the century, NBM’s latest ComicsLit offering isn’t so much your typical journey of self-discovery as it is a rude awakening for the titular character.

Regis Hautière and Renaud Dillies team up to craft an elegant, lushly illustrated OGN exploring the dangers and wonders of the world outside our windows; challenging their audience to take a step back from the rat race and take in the beauty the world around us has to offer. While Abelard’s story is in some respects a coming of age story, it transcends that tried and true storytelling convention. By the end of the book, we all come to realize it’s Abelard who’s been teaching us, even as he overcomes and indeed recovers from his own hard life lessons.

Deceptively simple on the surface, there’s a lot going on in Hautière and Dillies’ modern fable. Both creators operate on a level seldom seen in North American comics. Obsessed as we are with spectacle and blockbuster events, we often ignore or overlook books that fall outside the mainstream (not to mention ones with solid visual storytelling). It’s getting better thanks – ironically enough – to high profile properties such as The Avengers and Batman but the ancillary benefits of Hollywood hype only reach so far. It’s important to broaden our storytelling horizons to encompass more diverse content and not remain shackled to whatever makes money quickest. Abelard, while it adheres to many traditional storytelling conventions, reminds us that true genius is often hidden by the absence of pretense and forced fabrication.

In spite of appearances – this is a talking animal book, after all – Abelard caters to a more refined comic book sensibility. This isn’t funny book snobbery either. It’s a point of fact. Lured in by Dillies’ exquisite rendering and Hautière’s clever script, we never see the tragedy or Abelard’s ultimate triumph coming. You won’t find this kind of storytelling elegance in The New 52 or Marvel NOW! – and maybe it’s unfair to expect to find it within those milieus. At the end of the day though, it’s refreshing to read a self-contained, gripping story that succeeds in realizing the apex of the medium based on solid craftsmanship and old-fashioned heart rather than empty spectacle.

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