December 29, 2011

Fantagraphics Review: The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec Vol.1

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec, Vol.1
Publisher: Fantagraphics
Story and Art: Jacques Tardi

French artist Tardi has been doing comics for years, and as clean and simplified as his art can look from time to time, there is magic in some of his pages. Certainly his longest running series The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec, which has had new volumes come out on and off since 1976, is a testament of the fun adventures one can have while immersed in the comic art world created under his brush. Fantagraphics here in the states once again has begun to unearth his body of work into the North American light, the first volume of The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec being another fine edition produced in the best quality possible.

The first volume, which they released not too long ago, collects the first two tales of the series, “Pterror Over Paris” and “The Eiffel Tower Demon.” To give a short plot line of these two intertwining tales, we find Adèle Blanc-Sec, a female who is a cross between Indiana Jones and Tin Tin, traveling to Paris in the year 1911, just as a Pterodactyl hatches from an egg at a French museum and begins to strike terror across Paris. Turns out, in a plot twist, the Pterodactyl was hatched and being controlled by psychic powers, which then ties into the statue of an ancient demon, which then turns out is pursued and worshiped by a huge cult that is also killing off a lot of folks.

Does it sound a little crazy, imaginative, and probably addicting to read? Yes, yes it is. Which is why you need to read this series.

True, it is one of those series where the author seems to want to throw twist after twist at you to the point of almost shear ridiculousness, and Tardi very well does, however, that is part of the fun and is intriguing, because Tardi pulls this off so well in his execution of a parade filled with endless twists and turns. Also, for as adventure-driven as this is, Tardi provides us with some true laugh-out-loud moments throughout the comics; the ending comes to mind, which I won’t give away here, put a huge smile on my face with its witty wrap up. Art wise some may not like the simpler style of Tardi’s, but I think his designs when splashed with color and combined with the story they are telling are fantatsic visuals. From demons to dinosaurs, I could look at his stuff all day, and Adèle’s adventures through the rainy streets and snow covered roof tops of 1911 Paris capture something special in our mind’s eye.

Also, I think it’s cool to note Adèle is a pretty great female hero from Europe. Plenty of the comics we see from that part of the world are things published in Heavy Metal, and when we think female hero from there, we think Barbarella. As sexy as Adèle is, sex is not a weapon or the point of the comics like in the likes of  Barbarella. It is an adventure story where she kicks some ass throughout these various odd situations, all by some random happenstance connected.

Dark Horse originally released these stories in the early 1990s, but they only got as far as the 4th tale in, and the books are out of print by this point. Fantagraphics is releasing all ten tales of the series in five hard cover volumes, which as I mentioned are produced in splendid quality. Recently in Europe, Adèle Blanc-Sec has seen a new lease on life in media as well with a live-action big budget film directed by Luc Besson (of The Fifth Element fame) in 2010, so now is a good time to discover (or rediscover the whole series if you read it in the 90s) this great comic.

Drew McCabe

A copy of this comic was provided by the publisher for review.



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