You know that thing where you watch a film like Lord of the Rings and just think “man, I’ve got to go to New Zealand sometime” well, reading Jacques Tardi’s The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec is a bit like that, except I don’t think I‘ll be going to Paris during 1911 anytime soon. Huge in France but virtually unknown outside of his homeland, Fantagraphics are re-releasing and re-translating Tardi’s classic series across a number of volumes to tie in with the release of Luc Besson’s film adaptation, which we at GCB also loved (you can find our review here!) The first volume is comprised of two stories, Pterror Over Paris and The Eiffel Tower Demon.
The plot that runs across both stories is surprisingly sophisticated, comprising of multiple narrative strands across a wide group of characters. Whilst this meant the book was never boring it did sometimes get a little confusing, one dodgy looking French guy looks the same as another in dark shades and a moustache! The plot often takes a sharp turn towards the absurd and down right crazy, but eventually the story always come back to our heroine. Adele Blanc-Sec takes no crap, her most used facial expression would most likely be rolling her eyes from irritation at the stupidity of others. It’s really nice to see such a strong female character at the centre of all this mayhem, and her character really pulls the book together.
Abele Blanc-Sec’s cynicism is perfectly matched by an ensemble cast of supporting characters that are at times crazy, love sick, deluded and best of all totally insane! Inspector Caponi and love struck museum worker Andrej Zborowski really stand out from among the crowd; Caponi can rarely put a foot right (as evidenced by the leg cast he gains in the second story) and manages to continually get himself into a muddle, his appearance is more than a little reminiscent of Thompson and Thomson from Tintin, although Caponi manages to make trouble all on his own.
Tardi’s artwork is great to look at; his panels are vibrant and full of life. In his hands Paris 1911 is a busy metropolitan city still hanging on to its 18th century spirit and facade. His drawing style is very angular and cartoony, from just a quick flip through the book Joe Innes (other GCB guy) commented upon its resemblance to Kevin O’Neil’s work on The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which I would say is a fair comparison. Adele Blanc-Sec herself wears her hair up tight and very rarely smiles; in fact I don’t think I spotted one in the whole thing! This book really is great to look at, and even when I had to go back over the previous pages to piece events together, I never minded since I got to look at the panels one more time.
The first volume of The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec left me with more questions than answers, and volume 2’s release date of November seems all to far away! I look forward to reading more of Adele Blanc-Sec’s adventures.