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Books Editorial

grandville18.jpg Grandville: Force Majeure

Bryan Talbot, Jonathan Cape

The fifth, and final, volume of Bryan Talbot’s steampunk/alternative reality/detective/all-animal series of graphic novels had me at the first page. Well, even before that the Art Nouveau cogwheels of the endpapers and the dedication to Beano cartoonist Leo Baxendale set the tone of endless attention to detail and a nod to the grand graphic traditions. But an exquisite close up of lobsters about to be eaten at a fin-de-siècle restaurant peopled by anthropomorphic fish does grab the attention, even before the drive-by shooting that gets the plot rolling. Inspector Le Brock is a hard-hitting badger with scores to settle in the corrupt world of warring gangsters, rival detectives and an amazing array of references, puns and visual quotations. Anything from Dr. Seuss to Millais’ Ophelia can pop up, along with nods to Sherlock Holmes, the Krays and the artist himself (Byron Turbot). The animal/people are depicted with surprising realism, with the throw-back iguana gangster-boss a high-point of invention. The plot, enriched with flashbacks, is as wickedly convoluted as ever, but the dazzling technique of the graphic frames is even better, especially the cinematic progress of a chase through Paris. Witty, involving and a treat for the eyes, this is simply style on a page.