By Fabien Vehlmann & Jason, coloured by Hubert and translated by Kim Thompson (Fantagraphics Books)
Multi-award winning French comics author Fabien Vehlman was born in 1972, began his comics career in 1996 and has been likened to the legendary RenÃ© Goscinny. He’s best known for the wonderful Green Manor series (illustrated by Denis Bodart), Seven Psychopaths with Sean Phillips, the as-yet-untranslated Seuls (drawn by Bruno Gazzotti) and Wondertown with Benoit Feroumont. In 2011 Vehlmann assumed the writing reins on legendary series Spirou.
Jason is secretly John Arne SaeterrÃ¸y: born in Molde, Norway in 1965 and an overnight international cartoon superstar since 1995 when his first graphic novel Lomma full ay regn (Pocket Full of Rain) won that year’s Sproing Award (Norway’s biggest comics prize). He won another Sproing in 2001 for the series Mjau Mjau and in 2002 turned almost exclusively to producing graphic novels. He is a global star among the cognoscenti and has won many major awards from all over the planet.
Now in his first collaboration with a writer, Jason adds his uniquely laconic anthropomorphic art-stylings to a surprisingly edgy, deliciously dark and blackly comedic tale of sundered families, sinister secrets and bombastic buccaneers.
Holding his signature surreality in check, Jason perfectly captures the odd tale of homely little girl Gwenny who leaves her appalling mother to search for her long-lost father: gone for many a year in search of pirate treasure.
The self-assured and devious lass tricks her way onto a pirate vessel, outwits the murderous corsairs long enough to reach the eponymous Isle of 100,000 Graves (even tricking one of the scurrilous brotherhood into becoming her unwilling protector) and then abandons them to a horrendous fate as the uncanny denizens of the lost land attackâ€¦
The island is home to a cult of torturers and killers called the Hangman’s Academy: an institution dedicated to preserving the traditions and teaching the myriad skills necessary to becoming a top-flight inquisitor and officially-sanctioned executioner. Moreover, the scary school has recently run out of live specimens for maiming and murderingâ€¦
As Gwenny single-mindedly searches for signs of her missing dad, she meets Tobias, a killer-in-training sadly out of place amongst his fellow students. With his aid she survives incalculable horrors before freeing the surviving pirates as a callous distraction. When they escape a colossal battle with the hooded executioner ensuesâ€¦
Gwenny, however, is not distracted: she’s found the answer to her questionsâ€¦
Mordantly hilarious, this superbly cynical fable rattles along in captivating fashion: a perfect romp for older kids and a huge treat for fans looking for something a little bit differentâ€¦
Jason’s work always jumps directly into the reader’s brain and heart, using his beastly repertory company to gently pose eternal questions about basic human needs in a soft but relentless quest for answers. That you don’t ever notice the deep stuff because of the clever gags and safe, familiar â€œfunny-animalâ€ characters should indicate just how good a cartoonist he is. His collaboration here with the sly and sardonic Vehlmann has produced a genuine classic that we’ll all be talking about for years to come…
Â© Jason and Fabien Vehlmann. All Right reserved.