“There are panels on every wall.”

Cruising Through The Louvre by David Prudhomme. Translation: Joe Johnson. NBM, 2016. 9781561639908.

Prudhomme’s entry into NBM’s English editions of graphic novels about the Louvre is one of my favorites. It starts with him getting a phone call while staring at Rembrandt’s self portrait, and reflecting on wandering the museum, “It’s like walking inside a giant comic book. There are panels on every wall.” But what he really enjoys is looking at people looking at those panels, and that’s the focus of this book. Tourists peering at paintings while holding up phones, people experiencing private moments that seem almost religious, groups of students on a tour, and of course the mob admiring the Mona Lisa (and ignoring the large painting on the wall across from it) — this is an appreciation of people’s attention and whatever focus they can muster. (My favorite guy in the Mona Lisa mob is ignoring the painting entirely, reading a book.) Prudhomme’s pencils bring the people, the artwork, and the building itself to life in a way that reminds me of being in the museum.  The woodwork alone is so intricate that it’s worth a visit by itself. (In fact when I was there years ago with my buddy Dave that’s all he looked at. The docents were very puzzled by his detailed questions about the floors.)

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I need a Walkman to play all my old mixtapes

Luisa: Now and Then by Carole Maurel. Translated by Nanette McGuinness. English Language Adaptation by Mariko Tamaki. Humanoids, 2016. 9781594656439.

17-year-old Luisa falls asleep on a bus and wakes up in Paris seventeen years later and, with the help of a young woman (Sasha), she meets and is taken in by her 34-year-old self (they pretend they’re cousins). I was worried the book would have a wacky Freaky Friday vibe, but it’s a fairly quiet story in which the younger Luisa is horrified at how her older self has fallen out of touch with friends and settled for a career that’s not as glamorous as planned. Both Luisas are attracted to the older’s neighbor Sasha, and it’s no surprise there are conversations about a young woman Luisa just kissed in the past and hiding who they are (especially from their mother).

Younger Luisa’s clothes and Walkman took me right back to the 80s. The only time I’ve had a similar flashback to my teen years is seeing the hairstyles and shoulder pads in Papergirls, and when I see costumes in Uncanny X-men issues numbered in the mid 100s.

“And NOW, for the first time on stage…or almost!”

About Betty’s Boob by Vero Cazot and Julie Rocheleau. Translated by Edward Gauvin. Archaia (BOOM!), 2018. 9781684151646.

Betty dreams of lying in bed with her boyfriend and then of crabs scuttling over her naked body, about to start clawing at her left breast. She wakes up in a hospital bed, bald and not feeling well, and tries to put on her wig before examining her mastectomy scar. With a prosthetic in place she looks and feels great, but she’s a bit shattered when her boyfriend doesn’t want to get intimate. After her boss sends her out to get something “more suitable” to put in her bra (I don’t want to spoil the imagery of what she’s using at that point), the over-the-top shop she’s in is robbed by a masked group of villains, which is a hint of crazy things to come. I don’t think it’s telling too much to say she runs away and joins a show.

The first half of the book is almost wordless and very powerful, and the second half felt less emotionally harrowing (though there are still tough moments) as Betty discovers the joy of people paying attention to her body on and off stage. It’s a nicely done, somewhat fantastical payoff after the all too real emotions of what she goes through.