Review: Grandville - Bete Noire / Author: Bryan Talbot / Artist: Bryan Talbot / Publisher: Dark Horse / Release Date: December 12th
Bryan Talbot is the master of creating unique and different worlds, and yet the Grandville books are pretty weird, even for him. A steampunk–like mix of Sherlock Holmes, From Hell and Rupert the Bear, the latest book, Grandville - Bete Noire takes Detective Inspector LeBrock of Scotland Yard to Paris to investigate a locked room mystery. Talbot has filled this world with all sorts of anthropomorphic animals, but this is not Wind in the Willows; it’s a full on detective adventure story, filled with sharp wit, clever twists and more than one sly poke at the nature of commercial art.
This is a rich world, filled with its own history, moral compass and foibles. Though it resembles the real world on superficial level, really the similarities are just there to allow the reader to adjust. Talbot fills his art with hidden meaning, and the entire work is filled with ideas, both subtle and obvious. This is a deep and rich novel, but also one that’s filled with action, adventure and people shaped badger’s beating the hell out of people shaped toads who also happen to be horrendous capitalists.
Grandville - Bete Noire is a comic book that compels you to read it again and again. Not only does it turn various conventions on it head, it’s also simply a cracking read and works on multiple levels. It’s potentially a good way to introduce none-comic book fans to the format; those who still think comics are for kids will get lulled into a nicely false sense of security here, up until the point where the cute animal people start investigating murders, and it manages this without being too heavy. If you’re not familiar with the work of Bryan Talbot, then perhaps it’s time you start.