Sunday, January 26, 2014

Basil & Victoria: London Guttersnipes by Yann & Edith

Collection : Humanoids Inc.
Edition : Slightly Oversized Edition
240 pages - 8.5 x 11 inches - Color
EAN 9781594650659
$39.95 - £24.9
You can buy it here
 When I first delved into Basil & Victoria I knew nothing about it but of what the Humanoids site told me:
London, 1887. While the British Empire is at its peak, and influences the majority of the world, most of London still lives amid poverty, disease, and crime. Basil and Victoria are two of the thousands of orphaned street urchins who survive by hustling, selling rats, and sleeping on the docks. Helped by Cromwell, their faithful bulldog, the trio travel from the mean streets of Whitechapel to exotic distant lands, meeting famous, and infamous, historical and literary figures along the way, as they lovingly bicker and squabble the entire time!

When you get done reading this you get a picture of an all-age or teenage adventure story with some cutesy references of literary characters and places; but that idea is so far away from the truth. After reading a handful of pages, I found Basil & Victoria to be a mature take on a children's adventure story.

http://www.humanoids.com/assets/CatalogueArticle/493/BasilVictoria-Diamond-4_tmp.jpgWhat grabbed me was its complex take on children and a children's adventure. When I read most comics with children protagonists there's a feeling that they're too innocent, creators are afraid to give them a multi-faceted look. Yann & Edith do a beautiful job bring that faceted look to their main characters and the characters that they come across. Yes, they can be innocent and have a childish view of the world but they're not afraid to get mean. Not only mean but downright violent and willing to kill someone: either to survive or out of jealously or anger. These kids express real human emotions and not showing an ability to think ahead and live fully in the moment; I found this very refreshing. Yann and Edith aren't afraid to touch or put them in some taboo situations that most American kid comics would never go.
http://www.humano.com/assets/CatalogueArticle/35352/Basil_Victoria_T5_10_big.jpgMaybe I'm just giving too much gruff to most kid comics. I think that the kids in Basil & Victoria are like this because they are a product of their time and of their social class. Basil & Victoria takes place during Victorian times, so there is a  heavy class, racial and sexual rules and divisions in play. These rules and divisions are essential to understanding why these kids act and talk--not only kids but everyone else around them--the way they do. They're essentially doomed to be gutter-trash throughout their entire life with no chance of ever being more than that. Yes, they have grand adventures but those adventures leave them back to where they were originally: ungodly poor. I was also happy that Yann & Edith weren't afraid to de-romance the Victorian Era and show it how it was. Show those horrible sexual, class and racial divisions as they were and how that affected people, how they affect the story and how it builds the foundation of Basil & Victoria. 
Now all is not bleak, Basil and Victoria do go on some amazing adventures. They go at each others throat, fall in love--with each other and other people--and seeing/meet amazing people and places. It's an absolute joy reading their adventures and seeing where they take them and how they deal with the problems in front of them. There's also a subversive blackish humor that's pervasive throughout all the stories.
Yes stories, that's another thing that caught me off guard. All the books collected here are stand-alones. I read them all within two days, but they're stories you can read one in a week and go back to read the next one without having to remember what happened in the last story. I think it's good to read them almost right away without any big breaks in-between. Mostly because these stories build and feed off each other. So what happens in one story may have reverberating effects on the next one. But, Yann & Edith do a great job building their stories without having the reader having to know everything of the past story to understand the new story.
http://www.humanoids.com/assets/CatalogueArticle/493/BasilVictoria-Diamond-2_tmp.jpg
Edith's art is a mixture of charcoal, waterpaints and black markers. Edith's linework and coloring is jaw-dropping gorgeous and it brings the characters, world and story to life . There are some times where the story calls for some heavy atmosphere and Edith brings it fully with her art. The last story takes place during a wintry London and god, Edith brings that world to life. You feel the snow, cold, dirt, grim, and depressing atmosphere of a early London morning. There are going to be times where you come across a panel by Edith where it stops you on your tracks and you just have to stare at it for a while. Edith also does some amazing pillow shots that allow you to breath and take in what happened before you continue. I was absolutely taken by the artwork and amazed by how perfectly it fits the comic.

Basil & Victoria is a comic that delivers in its premise and continues to surprise it's reader. Stories that will leave you breathless and wanting more after you're done reading them.

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