Women Discoverers: 20 Top Women in Science


By Marie Moinard & Christelle Pecout, translated by Montana Kane (NBM)
ISBN: 978-1-68112-270-0 (Album HB) eISBN: 978-1-68112-271-7

Comics and graphic novels have an inconceivable power to deliver information in readily accessible form, and – like all the best teachers – can do so in ways that are fascinating, fun and therefore unforgettable. Here’s a fresh entrant in a wave of historical and biographical visual celebrations seeking to redress centuries of gender injustice while providing true life role models for the coming generations.

Crafted by writer, editor and journalist Marie Moinard (En chemin elle recontre, La petite vieille du Vendredi) & Christelle Pécout (Lune d’Ombre, Hypathie, Histoires et légendes normandes), Les découvreuses is a cheery hardback – or digital – compendium made comprehensible to us, via translation into English by those fine folk at NBM.

As the name suggests, Women Discoverers focuses on twenty female scientists who generally – without fanfare or even fair credit – changed the world. Some are still doing so. A combination of comics vignettes and short illustrated data epigrams preceded by an impassioned Introduction from Marie-Sophie Pawlak (President of Elles Bougent scientific society), the revelations begin an extended strip history of the achievements of the peerless Marie Curie whose discoveries in chemistry and physics practically reinvented the planet. She is followed by brief vignettes of French biologist Françoise Barre-Sinoussi (discoverer of the HIV retrovirus), Canadian physicist Donna Théo Strickland (laser amplification) and African-American Dorothy Vaughan whose mathematical and computing skills served the world at NASA.

It’s back to comics for Ada Lovelace who revolutionized mathematics by inventing computer programming, after which single page biographies describe the achievements of lengths undertaken by French mathematician Émilie du Châtelet to attend men-only institutions in the days of the Enlightenment.

Although separated by centuries, mathematicians Emmy Noether (Germany 1882-1935) and Grace Alele-Williams (born in Niger in 1932) both excelled and triumphed despite male opposition but their stories pale beside the strip-delivered hardships of actress, engineer and mobile phone pioneer Hedy Lamarr

Another Nasa stalwart, mathematician/astrophysicist Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson, famously calculated Apollo 11’s life-saving orbit, while paediatrician Marthe Gautier discovered the origins of Downs’ Syndrome and Iranian mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani’s geometry discoveries were tragically cut short by illness…

The shameful treatment and fate of British researcher Rosalind Franklin also ended in a cruelly early death and belated fame, unlike French mathematician, philosopher and physicist Sophie Germain whose many (posthumous) triumphs never brought her inclusion in the numerous scientific organisations barring female membership during her lifetime.

Whereas Marie Curie’s daughter Irène Joliot-Curie won similar accolades to her mother, astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell discovered pulsars only to have her (male) supervisor steal the credit. At least she’s still alive to see the record set straight…

In pictorial form, astronaut Mae Jemison reveals her life and medical successes on Earth, before this potent paean closes with a trio of one-page wonders: Kevlar inventor Stephanie Kwolek, Navy mathematician Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper (writer of the COBOL programming language) and Chinese chemist Xie Yi whose advances in nanotechnology have made the world a very different place.

Sure, you could Google them, but this book is a far more satisfying and charming alternative and the very fact that you probably haven’t heard of most of these astounding innovators – or even a few of the more ancient ones – only proves, without doubt, that you need this book.
© 2019 Blue Lotus Prod. © 2021 NBM for the English translation.

For more information and other great reads see http://www.nbmpub.com/

Queen Margot volume 1: The Age of Innocence


By Olivier Cadic, François Gheysens & Juliette Derenne, coloured by Sophie Barroux: translated by Luke Spears(Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-1-90546-010-6 (Album PB)

Although not so well known in Britain as his other novels, on the Continent Alexandre Dumas père’s historical romance La Reine Margot is an extremely popular and well-regarded fictionalisation of the life of Marguerite de Valois.

This unlucky historical figure was the daughter of Henry VII of France and infamously diabolical arch-plotter Catherine de Medici, spending most of her early life as a bargaining chip in assorted convoluted dynastic power-games.

We don’t see a lot of proper historical romance in English-language comics; which is a shame as the stylish intrigue, earthy humour, elegant violence and brooding suspense (just think The Great without the excessive sex and violence… or vodka) of this one would certainly attract legions of fans in other sectors of artistic endeavour.

This substantial yet enchanting treatment of events and uncorroborated legends of the girl who eventually became the wife of Henri IV, Queen Consort of France twice over and the most powerful, influential, infamous woman in Europe is well worth a look-see, especially as most of what we know about her comes first-hand.

Queen Margot related the events of the times and her life – in exquisite, penetrating detail – through an infamous series of memoirs published posthumously in 1628…

Co-scripted by publisher, politician, computer entrepreneur, historian and statesman Olivier Cadic and François Gheysens, illustrated with intensely evocative passion and potently authentic lyricism by Juliette Derenne (Les Oubliés, Le 22e jour de la Lune) and enlightened through the graceful colours of Sophie Barroux; the first chapter appeared in 2006 as La Reine Margot: Le Duc de Guise and opens here in English with a spiffy gate-fold cover offering a potted history and run-down of the major players before the intrigue unfolds…

In August 1569, 16-year-old Margot and her Lady-in-waiting/governess Madame Mirandole arrive at the castle of Plessis-lez-Tours. In the ongoing wars between Papists and Huguenots, Margot’s ailing brother Charles might be King of Catholic France, but her other brother Henri, Duke of Anjou is the darling of the court: a veritable Adonis and glorious war-hero smiting the Protestant foe.

Anjou is also a sibling she adores and worships like a schoolgirl…

What little brotherly love there was stood no chance against a sea of popular feeling and cruel, envious unstable, hypochondriac Charles is determined to see it end and all Henri’s growing power and inherent glamour with it. Naturally, his dynastically-obsessed mother has plans to fix everything, but they never extend to showing her practically worthless daughter the slightest hint of kindness or approval.

Although young, Margot (who prefers the familiar name “Marguerite”) knows well that she’s nothing more than a disposable piece in a grand game, but briefly forgets her inevitable fate as Henri bedazzles the Court with tales of his martial triumph. Later he shares his own ambitions and misgivings with her. He dreads jealous, inept Charles taking the role of military commander for his own, and does not want to be married off to the Arch-Duchess of Austria…

Marguerite has problems of her own: Henri’s most trusted lieutenant; the appalling Lord Du Guast, tries to force himself upon her whilst making the most disgusting suggestions and veiled accusations before she can escape…

Worst of all, her mother – steeped in five generations of Machiavellian Medici manipulation and inspired by the bizarre prognostications of her personal seer Ruggieri – has begun setting her plans for the potentially invaluable, royally connected daughter.

Margot can do nothing against her mother’s wishes but, with the aid of drugged wine, she repays Du Guast’s affront with a public humiliation she will come to regret…

Everything changes when charismatic Henri, Duke of Guise and hero of the Siege of Poitiers arrives. He and Marguerite were childhood friends and now they are both grown, their mutual attraction is clear to all. Instantly, his lurking family sense a chance to advance themselves through a love match and quick marriage…

The kids themselves are only dimly aware of alliances. They want each other and even an entire gossiping, constantly watching Court is not enough to deter them…

As the war devolves into slow and depressing attrition, Anjou doggedly pursues victory and awaits his inevitable ousting, whilst Du Guast lays his plans to destroy and possess Marguerite.

News of her dalliance with Guise is of great worth to him and even though Catherine has organised a tentative betrothal to the Catholic king of Portugal, the vile seducer has ways and means of spoiling the proposed match. He’s even inadvertently aided by Marguerite herself, who tries many stratagems to disrupt the regal deal…

The constant in-fighting and subterfuge turns Anjou against his sister and when “proof” of her affair with Guise reaches Catherine the old queen moves swiftly.

Marguerite is compelled to capitulate to save Guise from Charles’ insane wrath and grimly faces the prospect of never seeing him again: cushioned in despised luxury and once more the pliable prize and powerless pawn in a game she cannot escape, avoid or win…

Colourful, intoxicating and powerfully compelling, The Age of Innocence is a beguiling view of eternal passions and human intrigue to delight the hardest of hearts and the most finicky of comics aficionados.
Original edition © 2006 Cinebook Ltd/Cadic – Gheysens. All rights reserved. English translation 2006 © Cinebook Ltd.

Wage Slaves


By Daria Bogdańska, translated by Aleksander Linskog (Centrala)
ISBN: 978-1-912278-06-0 (TPB)

It’s rare to see an international indie comic that combines personal revelation and intimate expression with hard-hitting reportage, so massive kudos to relative newcomer Daria Bogdańska who documented her eventful life thus far with uncompromising veracity while becoming a successful social activist battling corruption, authoritarian ennui and exploitation of immigrants in real life as well as this powerful and joyous paperback tome.

Having left her abusive home in Poland at 15, Daria travels across Europe, supporting herself with a succession of “under-the-table” and “off-the-books” jobs of varying legality and daily uncertainty, until she applies for and wins a place on a college course in Sweden.

After arriving in Malmö and hooking up with old friends, she finds accommodation of a tenuous nature, but, like so many others, has to work to pay for her studies. Being a temporary resident, she has no social security number and finds herself in the crushing trap of being unable to secure steady or even legal employment…

While constantly navigating the minefield of Sweden (Hell, any nation’s) Catch 22-based social security system, she finds casual work as a waitress and dogsbody for a chain of bars and curry houses run by an immigrant turned local bigwig…

As the year progresses, she notices things are pretty hinky even by the standards of the illicit economies she’s been exposed to in the past. At one point, the hard-working, occasionally partying student realises she’s supported herself for six years all over the world and never once had legitimate employment…

A little research reveals the nature and level of exploitation her non-white co-workers are enduring in pursuit of the Swedish equivalent of a Green Card, and something snaps. Daria decides something has to be done and boldly risks everything by joining a union…

Brutally frank, charmingly earnest and carrying a potent punch of virtue triumphant, Wage Slaves is a subtly engaging peek at the life too many youngsters have to endure, and one you should refresh your own comfortably numb social conscience with.
© Daria Bogdańska & Centrala. All rights reserved.

Amazing Athletes – 50 Remarkable Athletes of History


By Till Lukat, translated by Cecil Bronswear (Centrala)
ISBN: 978-1-912278-13-8 (HB)

We’re all in need of role models and actual heroes – these days more than ever. Here’s a charming little (245x x 330 mm) hardback compendium aimed squarely at kids but delivering a mighty sardonic kick for all lovers of competition and achievement.

Comics and graphic novels have an inconceivable power to deliver information in readily accessible form, and – like all the best teachers – can do so in ways that are fascinating, fun and therefore unforgettable. Berlin-born world traveller Til Lukat splits his time between there and Bristol these days, crafting award-winning comics such as Tuff Ladies and this compilation of sporting memorabilia.

Listed here, with no patronising division into sex-based niches, is a wittily engaging primer of the greatest exponents of victory, defeat and all aspects of sporting accomplishment, delivered as a portrait, minicomic and fact-packed text block. The fun begins with an introductory spread recalling the ‘Good Old Times’ of ‘Milo of Croton’ before jumping to 19thcentury cyclist ‘Henri Desgrange’ and mountain climber ‘Alexandra David-Néel’.

Other entrants include the proud, famous, notorious and simply tragic such as ‘Francisco Lázaro’, ‘Johnny Weissmüller’or ‘Yuliya Stepanova’ as well as the generally unsung like ‘Alfonsina Strada’, ‘Helene Mayer’, ‘Jesse Owens’, ‘Fanny Blankers-Koen’, ‘Toni Stone’, ‘Barbara Buttrick’, ‘Tamara Tyshkevich’, ‘Wilma Rudolph’, ‘Katherine Switzer’, ‘Florence Griffith-Joyner’, ‘Tonya Harding’, ‘Ellen MacArthur’ and many others.

Crucial moments in sporting history are précised in spreads such as ‘Christmas on the Front’, ‘Equality: 1 Disability: 0’, ‘A Clean Game’, ‘Kicking Apartheid’ and ‘The Dark Side’ while adding intrigue if not lustre is the ‘Sibling Rivalry’ of Rudolf and Adolf Dassler (you should look them up, or better yet buy this book) to seal a superbly entertaining deal combining comics dash with athletic glory.
© Till Lukat & Cambourakis 2017. All rights reserved.

Dog Days


By Anja Dahle Øverbye, translated by Agnes Scott Langeland (Centrala)
ISBN: 978-0-9933951-9-2 (TPB)

Friendship is a strange and potent thing, especially if formed during or overlapping and surviving the fraught transition from little kids to turbulent teen…

Released as Hundedagar in 2015, Anja Dahle Øverbye’s award-winning debut graphic novel is set in a timeless “Then” in North West Norway as a small group of schoolgirls endure the dull tedium and decimating heat and foul odours of the annual Dog Days – when the usual nothing-to-do is cruelly exacerbated by debilitating heat and still air to match the static lives of the same old crowd.

Anne is having a difficult time. She’s too old for silly pranks, stamp albums and other kids’ stuff, but not old enough to go with life-long friend Marielle to interesting new places like the youth club. Worse yet, annoying creepy Carrie is monopolising Marielle’s time. They’re forming a bond: a clique of two who seem to spend most of their time being mean and playing nasty pranks on Anne.

Endless days go by and even tragedy at a neighbour’s house, the big fair and that creepy adult hanging around can’t dispel the tedium. The situation between the rivals worsens, so Anne decides to act. If she wants to restore the status quo or be part of a new one, she needs to adapt. Happily, shy, quiet Kate is around to take the cruel heat…

A sleek but chilling examination of unformed personalities instinctively vying for dominance, Dog Days is a deceptively powerful treatment of friendship and alliances that will remain with you long after yo finish reading.
© Centrala Ltd./Anja Dahle Øverbye. Translation © Agnes Scott Langeland. All rights reserved.

The Silence of the Hippo


By David Böhm (Centrala)
ISBN: 978-1912278060 (HB)

Culture is an aspect of shared experiences and for all of us that begins with stories we hear as children. We all grow up with a lexicon of myths, legends and fairy tales that become an inner landscape, and most of us spend the rest of our lives adding to that store.

But how do those tales resonate with the primary receptor: the young kids that experience them fresh and raw and free of world experience to measure them against?

Someone who knows a bit about that is Terezie Böhmova Imlaufová. In 2008, she worked as volunteer teacher in Bozom, in the Central African Republic. On day she asked her pupils to write down the myths and stories of their ancestors and the results were muddled, charming, strange and utterly compelling.

The melange of everyday contemporary African life, fabulous legends and innocent but developing internal logic was so beguiling that Terezie’s brother – award-winning Czech cartoonist and illustrator David Böhm – adapted them into the stunning strip parables contained in this compelling and colossal (248 x 64 x 3302 mm) hardback tome.

Printed in muted, sandy sepia and black and rendered in splendidly and surprisingly adaptable silhouettes (like those old shadow-play stories that used to sneak out of Eastern Europe and onto our TV screens during the 1960s), this compendium offers a brilliant peek into the minds of children and lasting power of myth.

The blend of Aesop’s Fable, Just-So story and African traditional tale comprises the mundane and the incredible as ‘The Cat and the Rat’, ‘The Magic Pot’, ‘Anie and Danie’, ‘The Woman who Wanted to Get Married’, ‘The Raven and the Fox’, ‘The Spider, his Wife and Children’, ‘The Monkey and the Crocodile’, ‘Two Brothers’, ‘About the Little Girl Mary’, ‘Mister Raven and the Hen’, ‘Glive, the Little Kerosene Merchant’, ‘A Man and his Two Wives’, ‘The Boy that Misbehaved’, ‘About a Fish, Water, Moon and Sun’, ‘The Spider and the Wild Yam’, ‘The Dog King’, ‘The Girl that Misbehaved’, ‘A Glass of Honey’, ‘The Dad and Meat, ‘The Hyena, the Goat and the Dog’, ‘The Siblings and a Flower’and ‘John the Baptist’ reveal in a dark, absurd and unforgettable manner how different and similar we all are…

Supplemented by poetry from Paul Niger, a foreword and biographies of all concerned, this is sheer exotic delight with an exceptional edge and unlimited entertainment value.
© David Böhm 2019 to stejné © Labyrint, 2009 U překladového copyright doplnit rok 2019: copyright @ Andrew Lass 2019. All rights reserved.

Planet of Science – the Universal Encyclopedia of Scientists


By Antonio Fischetti & Bouzard, translated by James Hogan (Europe Comics)
No ISBN: digital only

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Celebrating Humanity’s Greatest Miracle – Science! … 8/10

I saw this and thought of you…

Comics and graphic novels have an inconceivable power to deliver information in readily accessible form, and – like all the best teachers – can do so in ways that are fascinating, fun and therefore unforgettable.

A paradigm example is 2019’s La Planète des sciences – Encyclopédie universelle des scientifiques – which is now available digitally in English if not yet as a solidly reassuring tome. A bright and breezy introduction to a number of researchers and discoverers famed and not, it combines a page of personal history, biography and unflinching commentary on 37 notable personages who have added to global scientific knowledge, each accompanied by a smart, punchy and pertinent gag strip by underground cartoonist Guillaume Bouzard (Caca bemol, JeveuxtravaillerpourleCanardEnchaîné, Lucky Luke).

Presenting the facts is Dr Antonio Fischetti, author (Cats and Dogs under the scientist’s magnifying glass, Idiotic and Relevant Questions about Mankind); science journalist; educator (at the National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts, National Conservatory of Music and Dance in Paris, Louis-Lumière School and La Fémis); and author of a weekly science column for Charlie Hebdo.

The Continent is happily awash with factual albums and graphic novels – and not just biographies – and this is one of the most entertaining I’ve seen in years, opening with Dr. Fischetti’s explanatory postulate on why these particular 37 candidates and his cognitive methodology, before the visual revelations begin.

Divide into rough, ofter overlapping time frames it all starts in Ancient Greece with the lowdown and high points of Thales, Pythagoras, Hippocrates and Archimedes, before jumping to 780-850 for the story of Al-Khwarizmi.

Spanning the 15th – 16th Century, we meet Leonardo da Vinci, Nicolaus Copernicus, Ambroise Paré, Giordano Brunoand Galileo, before 17th – 18th Century pioneers Réne Decartes, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, Isaac Newton, Carl Linnaeus and Antoine Lavoisier get their moment in history’s hindsight and spotlight.

Representing the 19th Century are Charles Darwin, Claud Bernard, Gregor Mendel, Louis Pasteur, Alfred Nobel and Dmitri Mendeleev after which the revolutionary 19th – 20th Century hones in on Ivan Pavlov, Max Planck, Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, Alfred Wegener, Alexander Fleming, Erwin Schrödinger and Trofim Lysenko. By now its probably clear to most of you that this is no simple hagiography: same of the folk here are here because of their effect on scientific progress and it’s not all smiles, acclaim and awards…

The procession ends with the 20th – 21st Century (because, as of this writing, time travel has not been satisfactorily confirmed or reproduced under laboratory conditions) with controversial and occasionally still-living paragons Konrad Lorenz, Alan Turing, Alexander Grothendieck, James Watson, Peter Higgs, Yves Coppens, Jane Goodall and Emmanuelle Charpentier. Sure, you could Google them, but this book is a far more satisfying alternative…

The very fact that you probably haven’t heard of some of these latter savants – or even a few of the more ancient ones – only proves without doubt, that you need this book. QED: What more can I say?
© 2020 DARGAUD – Fischetti & Bouzard. All rights reserved.

Lola’s Super Club: “My Dad is a Super Secret Agent”


By Christine Beigel & Pierre Foiullet, translated by Jeff Whitman (Papercutz)
ISBN: 978-1-5458-0563-3 (HB) 978-1-5458-0564-0 (TPB)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Fantastic Fantasy Fun… 8/10

Once upon a time, stories designed to enthral and entertain young girls were a prolific staple of comics output. However, by the end of the 20th century the sector had all but faded from the English-speaking world, but enjoyed a splendid resurgence – particularly in America – as the graphic novel market expanded to its current prominence.

Based in New York, Papercutz are committed to publishing comics material for younger readers – especially girls – and combine licensed properties such as The Smurfs, Gumby and Nancy Drew with compelling new concepts such as The Wendy Project and intriguing European imports like Brina the Cat and Chloe. They’ve recently taken on the challenge of finally introducing Asterix to poor, culture-deprived New Worlders. I must check that out on your behalf of course…

An eagerly anticipated transatlantic transplant soon to be yours, Lola’s Super Club is the brainchild of prolific children’s novelist Christine Beigel & comics veteran Pierre Fouillet (co-creators of Le Chat Pelote: Adoptez Moi!) detailing the manically frenetic exploits of a little lass blessed with a superabundance of imagination.

Lola is able to animate her cat Hot Dog and selected favourite toys – such as the size-changing lizard Super James (in undies) – to accompany her on adventures across all Time and Space as the irrepressible Super-Lola

This initial outing offers two complete adventures in one sleek volume (available in hardback, paperback and in digital editions) as Lola and her crew come to the rescue of her father Robert Darkhair (AKA superspy James Blond – an Agent so Top Secret, even he doesn’t know he’s licensed to thrill…) in eponymous romp ‘My Dad is a Super Secret Agent’.

To save him from arrogant Arch Fiend/shabby supervillain Max Imum, his sinister talking hounds Zero and Zero and his diabolical witch mother Mini Mum, Super Lola engages in a frantic chase from home in Friendly Falls, USA through sordid sewers and dank dungeons, into the stratosphere and through terrifying jungles, encountering and defeating or befriending skeletons, monsters, jungle men and pirates before she can declare her mission accomplished and her dad and missing mother reunited safely at home…

Further helter-skelter Imagineering ensues in second adventure ‘My Mom is Lost in Time’ after Lola and her gang – sorry, “Club” – are sucked into a TV show and end up battling bears at the frozen pole, fleeing dinosaurs in the Jurassic, and clashing with Egyptian crocodile god Sobek, while making history in all the wrong places…

However, with every stopover in significant moments the Super Club is getting closer to home and to Lola’s absent mum…

Fun, fast-paced and furiously inventive, these fanciful feasts combine imagination and discovery with a solidly positive message of family solidarity and free expression every child desperately needs to experience and absorb. Make sure this book is in your young’uns’ stocking this year and that the subtext becomes part of their life story, no matter how far-fetched or extraordinary…
© Christine Beigel + Pierre Fouillet, 2010. © Bang. Ediciones, 2011, 2013 All rights reserved. English translation and all other material © 2020 by Papercutz. All rights reserved.

Lola’s Super Club: “My Dad is a Super Secret Agent” is scheduled for release on December 8th 2020 and is available for pre-order in both print and digital editions.

Leonardo2


By Stéphane Levallois, translated by Joe Johnson (NBM/Musée du Louvre Éditions)
ISBN: 978-1-68112-264-9(HB) eISBN: 978-1-68112-265-6

In 2005 one of the greatest museums in the world began an intriguing ongoing project with the upstart art form of comics; inviting some of the world’s most accomplished masters of graphic narrative to create new works in response to the centuries of acquired treasures residing within the grand repository of arts, history and culture.

The tales are produced in close collaboration with the forward-looking authorities of the Louvre, dedicated to pushing the envelope of what can be accomplished by master craftsmen inspired by their creative antecedents and forebears. These are no thinly-concealed catalogues of exhibition contents gift-wrapped in cartoon terms to gull potential visitors off their couches and into a stuffy edifice of public culture, but vibrant and challenging comics events calculated to make you think again about what creativity and history mean…

Since then, many of our medium’s greatest exponents have crafted 12 astounding and compelling graphic novels and the twelfth may well be the most potent and rewarding thus far.

Courtesy of those fine folks at NBM, that latest beguiling bande dessinée is now available in English, highlighting the genius of Leonardo DaVinci in a most intriguing and impressive manner…

The artist of record in this staggeringly large – 254 x 36 mm – hardback (and more manipulable digital edition) is Stéphane Levallois. He was born in 1970 and studied at the Penninghen Graduate School of Graphic Art from 1988-1992, taught sketching there and studied computer graphics. He’s worked mostly in poster-making and illustration, games design, film storyboarding and advertising. He also clearly remembers the golden age of Metal Hurlant

Originally released in 2019, Leonardo2 takes a stunning science fiction approach to the appreciation of great art as in the distant future and depths of space the last remnants of mankind approach a derelict museum proofed against the rigors of the void.

Through their advanced technologies, the last men of Earth harvest genetic material from a certain painting and clone a lost master. They don’t want him for his painting skills…

As the boy grows his life is imparted to him in the face of imminent extinction. an alien species is hunting humanity and what is needed is Leonardo the inventor, Da Vinci the Master of War…

Rendered alternately in in sepia and full colour, this incredible tale – two years in the making – began with Levallois learning to draw in Da Vinci’s style and the result is lovely and staggering. Moreover, the story is layered with psychological intrigue, questioning the power of creation and the morality of survival.

A glorious feast for the eyes, the saga is augmented by a sketch-packed essay detailing how it all came about ‘In Leonardo’s Footsteps’.

This is another astounding and ferociously strident comics experience no art lover or devotee of the visual narrative medium can afford to miss. Moreover, in this most unusual of years, I feel no compunction in breaking convention and saying this is a guaranteed 10 out of 10 Christmas certainty, if you’re looking to fill those stockings early…
© Futuropolis – Musée du Louvre Éditions 2019. © NBM 2020 for the English translation.

Leonardo2 will be released on October 15th and is available for pre-order now.

Most NBM books are also available in digital formats. For more information and other great reads see http://www.nbmpub.com/

Stigmata


By Lorenzo Mattotti & Claudio Piersanti (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-409-2 (HB)

It’s rather hard not to think that it’s the end of days at the moment, and naturally that’s affecting what I’m reading. You too, I expect.

In that spirit, here’s a book you simply must read before you die, and if you already have, it truly stands another go.

In his latest magnificent endeavour, Lorenzo Mattotti is a giant of European graphic narrative with a back catalogue of truly stunning confections. In 1999 he teamed with novelist and screenwriter Claudio Piersanti for the first of two potent yarns (the other being the still untranslated Anonymes): to produce one of the most powerful and memorable examinations of religious experience with Stigmata.

This impressive hardback (still no digital edition yet) describes the Job-like trials and tragedies of a brutal, alcoholic shipwreck of a man pushed beyond the brink of tolerance and sanity. The pariah finds a kind of peace and resolution, but unlike his Old Testament antecedent, what begins in misery with nothing, only proceeds to forfeit even his last remaining graces. By the end of his travails, the sinner has found precious little knowledge or understanding, but some sort of peace…

Drunken, brutal, dissolute, middle-aged and heading nowhere, the last thing he needed was holes in his hands that bled but wouldn’t heal. Already despised and feared, the lonely bum works at a bar, but the wounds and the blood upset even those gin-soaked sots. Moreover, people follow him, thinking he possesses some divine secret or power to heal…

Eventually he snaps, wrecking the bar and confronting the vicious gangster who runs it… Some folks call him “the Saint”. He doesn’t think it’s funny…

As the city becomes even more savage and ugly, he takes off; tracking down an uncle who worked in a carnival. When he finds the travelling show his uncle is gone – arrested for stealing – but the Carnies accept him and he strikes up a romance with the vivacious Lorena. Even working as a handyman, his bleeding hands interfere, but the canny show-people turn it to their advantage, setting him up in a booth dispensing piety and miracle from his shabby, tawdry “House of Blessings.”

Travelling from town to town, he finds a kind of contentment, but eventually the Carnies’ secret sideline of burglary brings police attention. When his old gangster boss tracks him down and delivers a hideous punishment, he destroys the Stigmatic’s last shred of hope and Lorena’s life forever.

And then the storm hits… a tempest of Biblical proportions that changes everything…

Brooding, compelling and rendered in a cacophony of swirling miasmic lines, this fearsome modern parable is a fierce interrogation of faith and destiny asking uncompromising and uncomfortable questions about the price of Grace and the value of belief. Are these trials, so like Job’s cruel yet purposeful tests, the tough love of a benevolent father, the whims of a despicable devil or the random vagaries of an uncaring fate?

Stigmata is a grotesque and beautiful metaphysical rollercoaster with existential angst and blind faith gripping each other’s philosophical throats and squeezing really, really hard. No rational reader or mature comics fan can afford to miss this dark shining delight.
© 2010 Lorenzo Mattotti & Claudio Piersanti. All rights reserved.