Saturday, October 19, 2013
Last Days Of An Immortal by Fabien Vehlmann & Gwen De Bonneval
I've been a fan of Vehlmann's writting for a while now. I've enjoyed reading his (and other artists') Green Manor series with Denis Bodart, Isles of 100,000 Graves with Jason, and Le Marquis d'Anaon series with Matthieu Bonhomme (not yet translated in English, to my knowledge). But it is with this comic that made me fall in love with him and made me buy any comic that had his name. Not only Vehlman but also Bonneval, who is an extraordinary artist (who I will talk about in this review).
This is a re-read for me but I didn't mind re-visiting this comic; actually, I was gushing with joy because I was re-visiting it. I love this comic!
Lasts Days Of An Immortal is a fascinating sci-fi story that is a complex cultural and character study. It revolves around Elijah who is a part of the Philosophical Police and he's been put in charge of investigating a centuries old murder. This murder is causing a huge friction between the two species in which it revolves around, and it is put to Elijah to solve it. Elijah also has to deal with other species and their truly alien beliefs and cultures and deal with his friend who decided to die and not tell him and with other cases. So how does Elijah deal with all this?
Well, here's were the immortality comes into play. The terrans (humans, the species Elijah is part of) are immortal. There are things called echoes, they are made from the primary body of a person who is being echoed and are 100% copies of them. People can make multiple echoes of themselve so they can focus on various things at the same time and when they're done, the echoes come together in the primary body and the primary body gets all the memories and skills from those echoes. Another thing, if you die or get killed, one of your echoes can be turned into a primary body, so you can live on and keep on echoing.
But there's a catch, when you echo, you lose old memories and are unable to get them back, and if one of your echoes dies or gets killed, you can get the echo back, or whatever is left of it, but you feel the pain and last moments of that echo; a big price to pay for immortality. This is how immortality is used in the comic and it is a great tool and concept used fabulously by Velhmann and Bonneval. By being able to echo, the creators can bring further various plots and sub-plots into play and expand and further explore the world so us readers can have an enrichening experience. Which brings me to the world.
The world that Vehlmann and Bonneval created is singluary unqiue and like nothing I've ever seen before. There is truly blue and orange morality and cultures in play here. What I mean by that is these are cultures and morals that are so alien to us (humans), that we can only really grasp a bit of the surface of their meanings but never delve deeply into them because they're so utterly foreign. Velhmann and Bonneval do an amazing job putting forth so many different species and cultures, sometimes the species are only there a few pages but they're foreignness are so strong, strong enough that they linger on in our minds for days. Not only are the species so unqiue, the terrans (humans) are even weird. Humans still look like us (though have really weird fashion senses, imo) but their moral, arts and culture are wildly different. Humans now can change their bodies and looks and sexuality is a very grey upon gray standing. Not only that, humans have taken other species' cultures and arts and morphed them into their own unique vision. As you can tell from the pictures, unique.
Aside from the species, the actual world is wholly alien. There are weird alien plant species, moving 3D swimming pools, dimensional modern art displays that drift, morphowrestling and a whole list of other things that I just don't want to ruin for you.
Even with all these alien cultures around us, Vehlmann and Bonneval are able to make us care for them all and oddly, relate to them; everything here is fully realized and nuanced. Vehlmann and Bonneval made me feel a range of emotions, and made me care for the species I came across, Elijah and everyone else in this comic. All that takes great skill to do, to make something so alien so relatable.
Now I can't talk about this comic without talking about Bonneval, oh the great Bonneval. As you can tell from the examples I've posted, he's one hell of an artist and visual storyteller. He has elegant and expressive lines, that have weight and drama to them. With a few strokes, he can heighten a scene and convey loads of information for us to decipher. Looking at his line work I see influences of Matisse and Jules Feiffer but with his own unique vision and touch.
Bonneval's panel arrangements and composition are flawless. The way the puts together panels, there's a... a beat to them, a rhythm that just flows naturally that just guides your eyes, moves the story and never lets you get confused. And the way he places characters, set pieces, and word ballons in his panels are beautifully done. You get the feeling that placement of everything is natural, that they deserve to be there and any slight movement will ruin the illusion that Bonneval has put us in. It's hard for me to put into words, but it just works. This is a comic I can give to a novice comic reader and I don't have to worry about them getting lost. They can easily follow everything and never get lost.
This is one of those rare comics that just leaves an impression on you. You'll never forget what happened and it changes you. So do yourself a favor and buy this. Also, be on the look out for Vehlmann's new comic Beautiful Darkness coming out soon from Drawn & Quarterly.
The next reviews from me will be District 14 (comic of the year, imo) and works of Nicolas De Crecy and Marc-Antoine Mathieu.
Thank you for your time.