Sunday, November 10, 2013

Blast 1-3 by Manu Larcenet


Into The Wild is what crossed my mind when I read Blast. I haven't read Jon Krakauer's book about the life of Christopher McCandless, but I did see the film adaption. Wanting to be independent, the need for self discovery, wanting to enjoy life, the wandering, but also the loneliness and desperation towards the end of the film were elements that struck me most about that film. These are all elements that are there in Polza's life, the main character of Blast. However Blast is much more complex, because added to the mix above is self loathing, self destruction, melancholy, philosophy, psychiatry, alcoholism, trust and abuse. This book is raw and punches you in the gut page after page. When you think it can't possibly get any worse it does just that.

French creator Manu Larcenet (Ordinary Victories, Le retour a la terre) started writing Blast back in 2009 and knew it was going to be 4 volumes when finished. In 2012 volume 3 was released, with the final volume planned for a 2014 release. The work was originally published in French by publisher Dargaud, and has been translated to German, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and possibly some other languages, however English sadly not being one of those. This review will be based on the Dutch translation of volumes 1, 2 & 3 by publisher Oog & Blik | De Bezige Bij.

Volume 3
So how do we get to know about Polza's life? Larcenet takes us to the police station where we see an arrested Polza being interviewed by two detectives about the killed Claire Oudinot. What makes this story interesting is that rather than trying to figure out the easy facts on how Polza killed Claire, the detectives are convinced by Polza to let him tell his story to take them on his journey, because if they want to understand why he did what he did, they'd have to take the same journey Polza took. So he starts talking about his father's death, how he sat at his death bed, talking to him while his mind was numbed by morphine. He tells the detectives how he felt. How there was no bigger contrast between his dying father, whom was reduced to some bones held together by his skin and Polza's morbidly obese body. Saddened by what he saw at the hospital wandering the streets he eats more and more of his Funky Chocolate bars and drinks copious amounts of alcohol to wash away a handful of randomly selected pills. Sitting outside in the pouring rain like a homeless man he vomits everything out and that's when it happens - his first experience of the blast.



The detectives don't know what to say... a blast? What's that supposed to mean? As Polza tries to explain what the English word for blast means, and what it makes him go through, the detectives scratch their heads. It's this crackling in Polza's head, the terrible sound of the breaking of bones, when different air pressures from two sides come together and you are squeezed in between, or at least your head is and then your skull feels like it's sucked out and then suddenly you feel like a newborn levitating through the air having visions of a giant Moai and seeing a world without any morals. It sounds completely insane! But is Polza really insane? Or is he pretending to be? He speaks in such a poetic, philosophic manner that you start to think that maybe he is not that monster capable of killing a lady in cold blood. But what could his motive be?

The detectives decide to let Polza talk, hoping to discover more about other crimes he might have committed or witnessed. After his first blast he wants to experience it again, trying to recreate the same atmosphere he was in when he had his first blast. The blast made him take a non-conformist approach to life. When he needs more time than just a minute, he just takes that extra time. Polza starts to live on the streets without any structure in search of another blast. No structure in life though is generally not the best idea for someone who hates himself, who is psychotic and unstable. From the streets he moves to the forest, he breaks into houses, finds himself being taken care of by strangers after having been abused, becomes friends with a drug dealer, taking him deeper and deeper into problems that become unsolvable. Or is this life he chose the way to his desired solution? A way out of life?

I hope you won't feel too depressed reading this review, because the book will make you feel even more depressed! Larcenet must really hate Polza, what he makes him go through is a life you don't wish upon your worst enemy. A life filled with alcoholism, drug abuse and obesity are just some examples that scratch the surface of the complexity of Polza's life.

It's quite incredible how Larcenet created this graphic novel. The story is told merely by Polza being interviewed by the two detectives. Polza only moves between the interrogation room and his cell a few times in the course of the three volumes I read. But it's Larcenet's ability to tell a moving, gut wrenching, punch in the face story that makes it not matter from where it's told. It's also fascinating that after 3 volumes and over 600 pages we still don't know how and why Polza killed Claire Oudinot. And it doesn't matter! It's the emotional journey Larcenet is taking us on through Polza's life story and inner workings that keeps us at the edge of our seat and where at moments we even lose the main plot. But that doesn't matter! It's that good!

The book's art is mainly in black and white, but some scenes are in colour. This is mainly when Polza is experiencing a blast or is looking at art he encounters in homes he broke into to stay the night during the cold winter. The blast scenes that have some colour are actually drawings made by two kids and that's pretty easy to see, but perfectly fits the story Larcenet wants to tell. With art being black and white, the main use is black though and many shades of grey. In many panels you just see the contours of the characters, but it's always plain easy to see what's going on in each panel. You can see Larcenet is fully able to put all his creativeness into Blast. The art starts to get more and more detailed as the story progresses and I wonder what he has in store for us in the next and final volume.

So in conclusion if you liked the aspects of self discovery and loneliness of Into The Wild and want to experience a story that takes you by the cojones, put the Into The Wild soundtrack on repeat, or more specifically the song Long Nights and let Larcenet take you on a journey you will not forget.


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