Review: Sandcastle / Writer: Pierre Oscar Levy / Illustrated By: Frederick Peeters/ Translated By: Nora Mahony/ Publisher: SelfMadeHero / Release Date: Out Now
A group of strangers gather in a secluded bay to enjoy a sunny day by the sea, but find that forces beyond their comprehension compel them to stay there, isolated and trapped with each other. I’m reluctant to reveal more about the plot than is necessary, because plot here is incidental to character-study and meditations on our mortality. Sandcastle is an intimate science-fiction tinged with melancholy, a distinctly European take on a concept that would have been right at home in The Twilight Zone. The lone Kabyle man dismissed by alpha-males on the beach as an Arab and instantly used as a scapegoat brought to mind Camus’ L’Étranger, though that might just be my brain clutching for cultural straws of comparison! Sexuality is never glamorized in Sandcastle and on this level it reminded me subtly of Charles Burns’ Black Hole, though perhaps Daniel Clowes’ David Boring might be closer to Sandcastle in terms of themes and characterization.
The binding of the hardcover edition of Sandcastle that I read was beautiful, afforded the same level of respect that IDW are so well-known for, and overall I found the reading experience to be a great introduction to a European tradition about which I know very little. If French bookstores are full of bande dessinée like this then it's little wonder that they have such a thriving market for comics. My only regret about reading Sandcastle is that now SelfMadeHero’s translated works will be vying for space on my shelves with American superheroes and Shonen Jump manga!
Sandcastle will not be for everyone; there are no easy answers given for the situation that the protagonists are placed in, the characters have a high mortality rate and their believability renders them ugly and obtuse as often as they are lively and compelling. With that disclaimer you’ll find a lot to love in Sandcastle and a mature tone that we experience so rarely in English-language comics. Why not take a break from Technicolor violence and high-school romance for a reading experience that will leave you thinking for weeks to come?