Grandville by Bryan Talbot

Grandville
by Bryan Talbot
Dark Horse Books, 2009

Another epic by Talbot, who’s really poured it on for this one. Not only is it set in an alternate Victorian universe where France won the Napoleonic Wars, but it’s also steampunk. There’s robots walking around. Oh, and most of the characters are anthropomorphic animals. Most, not all… the few humans are known as “doughfaces” and regarded as menial workers. And it’s a whodunnit. And the main character is an extraordinarily buff badger detective called LeBrock, who comes over as a cross between Poirot, Holmes and Connery-era Bond. Something for everyone, in other words.

The artwork is lush, and the thick black lines would actually look okay in black and white. Talbot’s colouring is fine, but it’s a bit Photoshop-default (not that I’m one to talk). Also there’s this strange thing going on with the animal characters where everyone, regardless of species, is human height with human bodies, (three-fingered) hands and fingernails. The female animals also have human hair. They really just have animal heads. You do rather wonder why he bothered, like Nicki Greenberg’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby, where all the characters are sea creatures, and Dave Gibbons’s The Originals which is an alternative-universe Mod story where all the scooters hover, for no apparent reason.

Still! Not to detract from a book which has had a lot of work put into it and has some very clever ideas… LeBrock tracks down a white dog called Milou in an opium den whose hallucinations will seem familiar to anyone who’s ever read Tintin, there’s a Sarah Bernhardtesque love interest (who also just happens to be a badger, it was fated, really), an extraordinary almost-wordless eight-page sequence where LeBrock beats to death eleven enemies in a hotel room, followed by a Schwarzenegger-like setpiece where he blows up the Palace of Versailles… Blimey. If only more cartoonists were this ambitious.

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One Response to “Grandville by Bryan Talbot”

  1. I’ve seen and was quite charmed by Greenberg’s adaptation of “The Great Gatsby”. It was so absurd and I seem to be drawn to that in some forms.

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