Saturday, November 30, 2013

Inlandsis by Stéphane Betbeder & Paul Frichet

Last year I read volume 1 of Inlandsis and it was a big surprise. One of the best books I've read in 2012. In France volume 2 was released by Soleil in 2012 already, but I only just got my hands on a translation, since my French is a little rusty. The third and final volume should be published in 2014. To get a taste of what to expect in Inlandsis, check out this trailer of volume 1.

Inlandsis is about a story that happened a long time ago and is told from one generation to the next by the Inuit. However only one Inuit lady now knows the story and she is dying. Explorer Mauss hurries himself by dogsled to the old lady, to hopefully arrive in time, together with a translator, so he can document the story of times that have gone to pass. A time in which Earth had not given away all her secrets, a time in which humanity was not at the top of the animal kingdom, a time when legends where sufficient to explain the many mysteries of the world.

In those times the Gods established Inlandsis, that was protected by a great impervious wall of ice that had to protect them from the two-arms-two-legs (humans), because the Gods were not happy about that power hungry species. They graced the animals with the fire of intelligence and the gift of language and made them the protector of their empire. After all this they pulled back out of the world to rest on their laurels, undisturbed, at least that's what they thought.

Inlandsis is full of mystery, full of violence, full of adventure. About explorers, viking explores, Gods, humans and talking polar bears. I know talking polar bears might sound absurd and kiddy, but rest assured this is not a kiddy comic. It's about promises, broken promises, abandonment and loneliness. But also about revenge and prevention. The Gods do not the caucasian people to know their story. So what can they do to prevent that?

I cannot begin to explain how much I love this collaboration between Betbeder and Frichet. I have a weakness for stories that involve strange or unknown (to me) cultures, a weakness for myths, mysteries and stories with Gods. All of which are present in Inlandsis. The story Betbeder tells us here is quite broad in scope and really has the possibility of losing itself in its ambition. It sometimes feels as if this is the only or last story ever that will be published by Betbeder. So a real recipe for disaster, but somehow it works and perfectly at that! Another worry I had after reading volume 1 was that there was not really one protagonist, a character to care for, a character that takes us with him/her on his journey, through emotions. I know there is Mauss, but he is more of a vehicle for telling this story told by the Inuit lady. Furthermore we follow one of the Gods' abandoned sons, a baby and a polar bear. Again this concern seemed invalid after I read volume 2 that proved Betbeder's skills as a fantastic storyteller.

Now let me start on Paul Frichet. This guy that used to work for Disney did an amazing job with Inlandsis. The way he draws humans is very realistic and so is the way he draws the animals. However since the animals are talking they seem to be taking over human expressions Disney-style, which is the only complaint I have. A very minor complaint mind you, because if you take away these expressions, you might as well just put some dull polar bear drawings in there with some word bubbles. So apart from that I love the atmosphere Frichet creates in Inlandsis. You really feel the emptiness and the cold of the Arctic region and the people living in it. There is a lot of warmth in the drawings too that is created by an excellent use of colours. Together with the cold this creates a lot of contrast from page to page and from frame to frame.

Seriously if you don't know any of the languages this book is available in you might as well just get any version to just look at the pictures and see the story that these pictures tell. Get a dictionary too and get the full enjoyment. If you like other eurocomics, especially for example books  like Siegfried (Archaia) then this is a no-brainer. Bring on the next and final volume 3. Highly recommended!

Review is based on volume 1 & 2 of the Dutch release by Uitgeverij Daedalus. Originally published by Soleil.

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