Monday, 30 December 2019

Conventions of 2019 - A Few Thoughts.


It’s been a strange year for me personally as a lot of my Convention attendances have been for work. When I’m behind a table working for Nobrow I rarely get to have a look around and do socialising and/or shopping so often my viewpoint can be a little limited to a ore profits based evaluation. However I have been to more events this year than previously - events of all sizes.

I’ve been making a list of events I have been to this last year and they include in no sensible order ELCAF, NYCC, True Believers, HCZF, BAM, MCM x 2, Thoughtbubble, Nottingham CC, Edinburgh Comicon, Glasgow Comicon, The Lakes International Comics Art Festival, Not Another Comicon, the National Cartoonists Comics Festival in California, Comic Marts numbering 3, the London Film and Comicon, the Dundee University World War One comics event and some more I may have forgotten.

So here’s my thoughts on the scene this year. I’m not doing a top ten or even a top three as I genuinely think that each event has it’s own vibe and singular approach going for them. So I thought I would mention a few of the moments that I’ve liked or found fun at some of the cities I have travelled to in 2019.

Worthy of a mention straight off the bat is Thoughtbubble and the new venue. This was by anyone’s estimation a storming success for Lisa, Chloe and the rest of the team. From my view behind the Nobrow table it was busy and hip and had a genuine sense of community. The new location of Harrogate made the social side more inclusive as there were fewer bars people could head off to and hide. I even went to the mid-Con party for the first time ever and laughed at people dancing! From a sales point of view it was also great and I’ looking forward to next year.

(AJ Dungo creator of ‘In Waves’).

ELCAF (the East London Comics Arts Festival) was back at The Round Chapel again and seemed busier than ever. This is another festival that is about community and is always inspiring me to push my work and create more and more. (I started a rumour that I DJ’d - I did not - this was another one of my lies!) AJ Dungo was a guest and it was great to see him getting so much attention. Books flew off the table and I caught up with loads of pals who attended and were tabling. This is the big London event for me every year. Roll on ELCAF 2020.

(Luke Healy signing Americana at the HCZF Nobrow stall).

Hackney Comic and Zine Fair (HCZF) - This was the inaugural event and a fun one-dater of an event that ran alongside the colourful and samba beat of the Hackney Carnival. HCZF itself was really busy and we made great sales from the Nobrow table. But the event of the day was when one of the people manning the nearby Hackney Carnival floats brought in a box we had dropped off a trolley full of much needed volumes of Skip. They didn’t have to and it must have taken some investigation to find us. To that dancing member of the much less reserved adjacent event I thank you!

(Art by Stuart Mulrain showing he and Andy Hanks of the True Believers Comics Festival out spreading the four-colour love).

Nottingham CC and True Believers were again great fun and footfall seemed up again at both. I was lucky enough to be a guest at these ones and chaired some fun panels that were pretty well attended. These are a pair of events that i will always try my best to support and are run by grass roots comics fans with a genuine passion for the medium. These are both one day events and I think that for the size that works best for them and worth sticking with.

I headed ‘oop’ North to the Lakes International Comics Arts Festival (LICAF) for the first time and met up with pals Nikki and Ian (hosts of the LICAF podcast) and had a blast at the event. It takes over the whole town from window displays to talks to parties and more. I even scored some great deals on back issues in the local charity shops. This has a much more ‘arty’ with a small ‘a’ feel to the events and is definitely something you can take the whole weekend to enjoy. A highlight was the Duncan Fegredo retrospective gallery show. 

I travelled a bit this year and went to a couple of Comicons in Scotland. I am really enjoying what I call the ‘In It To Win It’ all inclusive vibe to Scottish events. They seem to an outsider to lack the snobbish tribe mentality on London. At the Edinburgh gathering especially you saw experimental autobiographical comics up next to Horror comics up next to more traditional superhero and back issue sellers. There’s none of the ‘I printed this with bio-diverse Norwegian stoat droppings’ virtue signalling BS we see in some corners of the London/Brighton scene and certainly nobody was turning their nose up at personal genre choices. I’m really rather tired of hearing the trite upspeak of the man-bunned and woolly-hatted mofos saying ‘I don’t read about superheroes’ and then try and sell you their work-photocopied comics about their anxiety riddled cats! None of that north of the border (well not that I saw).

(Bob Fingerman and Joe Dator made for great company on my first trip to California!)

I made it to a couple of American comics gatherings. First up was the National Cartoonists Society Comics Art Festival in Huntingdon Beach. I made a week of the holiday and met up with pal Bob Fingerman. He, myself and new buddy Joe Dator hung out, drank, ate some great food and larged it around the small hotel festival. 

(One of the greatest comics moments of my year was listening to Lewis Trondheim and Sergio Aragonés talk drawing).

As there wasn’t what could be called a throng of fans at this beachfront venue (something where I think this festival failed but was a total bonus for me) I managed to spend time with some comics heroes. I chatted over coffee with Mary Fleener, Daniel Clowes, Sergio Aragonés, Martin Rowson, Jaime Hernandez, Lewis Trondheim, Boulet and more. I came away buzzing and hope that this event remains a secret going forward.

(Artist Christian Wildgoose (right) giving me the stink-eye in New York! I don’t know who that dude is next to him!)

After missing a year I headed back to the New York Comicon and worked the Nobrow/Hilda table. Sales were outstanding but I felt that the event lacked a little soul. The early years of the festival seemed much more focused on the actual comics and this is now just another Reedpop Mercy/movies/gaming event with an ever decreasing Artists Alley representation. In fact a major moan of mine was that the actual comics artists were rarely at their tables - and before you jump in here the reason I found out wasn’t because they were at panels or business meetings and rather that they were late rising and leaving early. I did however get to spend a good chunk of time with pals like Cliff Cumber and Sarah Harris and I’ll be back for more punishment next year.

(My Nobrow co-conspirator at the MCM stall.)

Speaking of Reedpop I did a couple of London MCMs this year spreading the Hilda, Flying Eye and Nobrow goodness beyond our normal bubble. Say what you will about MCM, and I have done in the past, the entirety of the comics stalls at London still represents the biggest gathering of actual comics sellers and professionals of any UK event. It is however surrounded like Custer by the idiocy of Funkos and Cosplay but if you can use noise-cancelling headphones and block that element out you’ll discover some gold and some great deals. I’ve heard some mentions of the Comics Village being a little quiet and this seems like valid feedback as it is most definitely the quietest area of the Excel floor plan. There are also quite a few publishers and distributors representing the industry and from a Nobrow point of view I must admit that both sales and fan engagement improve with each attendance.

Some events did suffer from the lack of footfall. I wasted a few quid getting a train to Birmingham for Not Another Comicon and saw meagre attendance figures, a lack of energy and a severe lack of signage. This seems to be a problem across a few of the events that I have attended and heard about. The reason is not a simple one and involves such difficult issues such as advertising, local engagement, venue, clashing events and transport.

On the other side of the comics coin I continue the pilgrimage to the London Comic mart. I’ve been attending these events since I was a kid and my father would drive me to the old Parliament Square venue and drink heavily whilst I flicked through long boxes. I continue to this day to pick up rucksacks full of outstanding comics at very cheap prices and chat to the regular faces. If you are into comics (or bootleg movies) this remains the best of all the events.

(The 200th ACP Event).

I’ve also got to mention the smash of the 200th Awesome Comics Podcast Episode event we held in the upstairs room at a pub in Victoria this year. ‘I was at the 200th’ badges were handed out and a boozy time was had by all. We are having a think about what we are going to do for the fifth anniversary that will be with us in July. Watch this space.

The trend of the sports hall event that calls itself a ‘Comicon’ and has a Dalek and an actor from Primeval seems to be disappearing (thank fuckness!) We’ve hopefully seen the shysters come and go in this area in the most part and whilst there are a few still popping up on my social media they do seem to be going the way of the die-cut cover? I managed to spend pretty much a whole year avoiding the minor celebrity and keeping the ‘fan print’ rubbish out of my line of site. The eco-unfriendliness of the plastic dead-eyed childlike pop media figure however seems ever on the rise sadly and continues to eclipse the actual comics contents of your average ‘Comic Con’. Hopefully the ‘woke’ youth of today will realise that these mass produced moulds will be landfill that fails to decay and they pull back from spending cash they can’t really afford and stop filling their box rooms with this crass commercialisation.

The act of turning a profit from your comics output or even just getting other fans eyes on it is still a concern. There also seems to be a balance of what used to be two extremes. Sure we still have the embarrassment of the hard sell rubbing up against the awkwardness of the introverted non-engager but I am seeing much more tablers on their feet and chatting amicably with punters. Many are talking about the craft and the story. This can only be good for sales and for community engagement and helps us step out of that echo chamber comics often find themselves suffocated within.

2020 looks like a year of events with my new role at Nobrow and I’m already filling up the calendar. I’ll be heading to Angouleme at the end of January and can’t wait. We have a couple more MCMs an ELCAF and hopefully some more new events on the way.

If you have an event you’d like publicising then don’t hesitate to contact me on here or at The Awesome Comics podcast!

Many thanks for reading.

Sunday, 29 December 2019

Favourites of 2019 - Graphic Novels.

Well here we are at the next instalment. In this one I tackle the thorny subject of Graphic Novels. Yes, I totally understand that the term is rather nebulous and idiotic. Yes, I know that ‘It’s all comics baby’ as I am often heard to say. But it does allow me to shoehorn some more comics into my list.

As Europe Comics got their own category in Part 1 of this list I have purposely left them out of the running. 

Graphic Novels.

In Waves - AJ Dungo. Still one of the best books that I have read this year or any year. The story of a relationship, a tragic one and the world of surfing that touchingly and beautifully swirls around the lives of the writer and his partner. Add to that a playful and engrossing history of surfing and you’ve got something that even this ancient west Londoner can enjoy. A book that if there is any justice in the world should be appearing on the awards circuit next month! Full disclosure that I work at the company that puts this book out and even a year after it went to print we still talk about how much we love it! 

(Published by Nobrow)

Poochytown - Jim Woodring. Yup, I am well aware that this came out in 2018 but I didn’t get to it until 2019 so in my books that counts. Visually stunning and your mind is swept along with the bonkers storyline. Woodring doesn’t put a foot out of step throughout. I still dip back in every few weeks to marvel at the art. The use of black and white in this and other books in this series will blow your mind as it did mine at a ‘table for one’ in January this year. (Published by Fantagraphics).

Maggie Garrison - Lewis Trondheim and Stéphane Oiry. This is a book that was initially put out by Europe Comics and then picked up for a physical release by Self Made Hero. Although it was written by Trondheim it is at it’s heart a Private Investigator story that takes place in central London and Brighton. The titular hero is a boozy street smart investigator who takes the reins when her boss can’t at her new job. A really well written and engaging story that moves rom real moment to real moment. I managed to get an interview with Lewis Trondheim at the NCS Festival this year and he steadfastly insists that there will be no sequel and that he has moved on.... 

(Published by Self Made Hero.)

Sons of El Topo: Volume Two ‘Abel’ - Written by  Alejandro Jodorowsky and Illustrated by José Ladrönn. This was the second volume in the series that has been released by Archaia Comics and it is as nonsensical and transgressive as you would expect from Jodorowsky. A writer who always walks that line between strangely interweaving and a chaotic accident of a scene/story/metaphor/cosmic realignment. I find this series hugely interesting but morally challenging, not the least of all.  For his treatment of certain females within the story. The narrative makes little sense but it’s often Ladrönn who makes it all worth while with his detail and scope. The art captures the acid western setting and also revels in the nature in this wild and dangerous kingdom of Jodorowsky’s imagination. It’s a hard one to recommend to those with a sensitive nature but if you know what you are getting tonally in advance it is worth the punt. 

(Published by Archaia).

Marble Cake - Created by Scott Jason Smith. This is a book that struck a chord for me in part due to the fact that it is a love letter to the streets of South London that I spent many of my formative years walking. Marble Cake has a realistic grounding in it’s scene settings and it’s relationships. This is also a comic of layers that features a mystery at it’s heart but also a cast that meet and interact cleverly throughout. The art has an indie illustrative flair of a type that Avery Hill promotes so well with other creators like Tim Bird. I’ve been reviewing their books for quite a few years. now and this is one of my favourites so far. 

(Published by Avery Hill.)

Many thanks for reading. Next up..... Conventions.

Saturday, 28 December 2019

Favourites of 2019 - An Attempt at Remembering - Part 2 (Small Press).

Hey Chums Welcome Back!

This is part 2 of my attempt to look back on the year and figure out what I liked. It’s been a funny year so you’ll excuse me if I missed out your groundbreaking and genre busting book (I may just have thought it was shite! Or it might just be my poor memory).

So without further drum roll let’s get on with it. Here’s the one that you have probably been waiting for. I’ve read so many small press comics this year that this one had to be a Top Ten.

Small Press.

1. The Human Beings Universe - This is a maze of mystery, tense drama, romance and horror that will fuck with your melon and stay with you for a long time after reading. Stuart McCune (who is with full disclosure here a good friend) has created a world unlike anything that you will find elsewhere in comics. His jazz like strands of narrative intermingle in a world that is dark yet shockingly beautiful. Noir was a perfect bound item of pure art and his upcoming Walk in Like An Exorcist looks to be more of the same. He runs prompt and reliable Kickstarter campaigns where you can gather the back issues needed to jump on board at any moment. Get on this! 

2. Andromeda by Ze Burnay. I picked this up from the creator at Thoughtbubble and have not stopped rattling on about how good it is for weeks and months. It is a freak of a story that mixes some intricately detailed black and white inked line-work with a story that Jodorowsky or Lynch would be proud of writing. It has a pseudo religious approach that couples with a nightmarish horror element that makes for a genuinely fresh reading experience. 

3. Plan A / Plan B - from the crazy world of John Tucker was also one of those books that just cleaned the dreck of formulaic comics out of my system. John writes with personality and an outlandishly quirky sensibility and is always original in approach and format. This is a flip book that meets in the middle in narrative and will at once make you smile and feel the slap of realisation to your chops. I’d recommend anything by the creator and his poster comic CYDO is also well worth a goosey!

4. Satan’s Library - Adam Falp is a machine of a small press creator. He lands in the muddy sidewalk of outsider art and combines this with a splendid love of the the Bronze Age of weirdness. This book tells a story of a search for the unusual in a back street comic shop and includes smaller format homage comics to different schools of our favourite medium. It has a darkness attached as well to it’s flow that is shown in the darkness of the ink and shadow on the paper. What will this underground creator have out next I hear you ask!

5Park Bench Kensington - Peony Gent. Showing what can be done with ink and colour on a page Peony has shown the small press world how to deliver an emotional and socially relevant story in a comic full of the instinctual and abstract. This is a true story and every second has a truth to the panels. Just a joy to read and ponder over Peony really is a creator to watch.

6Threadbare - Gareth Brookes. This is a quiet and initiate listen in to a conversation on a train between two women in their later years and their own private story of love and regret. Told as it happened by Gareth but in the medium of embroidery this was another comic that brought a lump to my throat. A good comic can interpret feelings and real life onto the page of something that we read and communicates all of that back at us and more. This was a real favourite this year that stuck with me. Gareth is a thoughtful creator who is always one to watch.

7Palace of Tears - Michael Lomon. I’ve been quietly following the work of this London based creator for some time now and this was another incredible piece of art with some genuine reverence to it’s story. Michael retells a folk legend with breathtaking scope and detail. I haven’t seen this mentioned elsewhere on the scene and it really does deserve much more attention. Easily one of the best illustrators on the scene at the moment and people really need to sit up and take note.

8.  Manu - by Gustaffo Vargas. It came as no surprise to me that this geezer has become one of the stand out artists on the scene this year. I reviewed his book L1MA back in May and loved it and Manu is more of the same edgy nature crossed with near future cyberpunk. It has a superb pace to it’s story that mixes in some moments of personal sensitivity.  I’ve been saying that he’ll be the next big artist at 2000AD or Image and finally people are agreeing!

9.  A Hill To Cry Home - Gareth A Hopkins. Continuing his assault on the battlements of the banal and the ordinary Mr Hopkins has had a bumper year with his abstractions and poetry. He has seemingly upped his output and still manages to put out some inspiring work. I’ll happily recommend anything he creates to the intelligent amongst you lot! 

10.  How to Make Comics With Springworth - Alright! Calm down at the back! Listen, I know that I wrote this but my input into this comic is minimal compared to the just flabbergastingly incredible artwork supplied by Mr Andy Hanks. Published as part of the charity Little Heroes for Fair Spark Books this is a fucking crime that I’m not seeing Andy mentioned more on these lists! MORE PUNCHING!!!!! This is the ideal comic for a bored child in the holidays and tells the story of a trio of superheroes and their robotic butler. The story also allows the reader to fill in details, design costumes and monsters and solve puzzles. 

Many thanks for reading. Part three to follow soon.

Favourites of 2019 - An Attempt at Remembering! - Part 1.

Hi Chums,

I thought that I would round out the year with a list of the highs (and some lows) of 2019 from my viewpoint as a reader, reviewer, writer and podcaster. With the medium spreading it’s wings further into all corners of the literal and figurative world it has been an interesting time to say the least. We have seen many trends come and go as well as some boutique indie publishers land with some great products and some then disappear.

So I thought that I might highlight where my year has taken me and give you a few of those ‘Favourite Lists’ that you seem so fond of talking about. This isn’t a big list of credits either so if you want a full creative team or release date/details etc you may have to head over to Google.

I have also (almost) stayed away from comics I have collaborated on, anthologies I have been part of, companies I edit for and books published by Nobrow. (I almost succeed too!)

First up is the more mainstream of my comics habit! Part two will follow soon and cover the Small Press, Conventions and Graphic novels.

First up...

Favourite Writer.

  1. Jonathan Hickman. - Who can doubt the effect that his Powers of X/House of X series had on both the Mutant Universe and on those writers who had sat back on their haunches and coasted along with the same old, same old.
  2. Gerry Duggan - Proving that you can write fresh stories and add some actual humour into some dark situations. I’d highly recommend anything Punisher title as a starter.
  3. Christophe Chaboute - Ok, I know that these books came out last year but I only got to them earlier this year. (So that counts in my twisted logic). The Park Bench and Alone are slow and observational. They take their time and are both full of some of the finest unspoken dialogue you’ll find. 
  4. Robert Venditti - A writer who works often on the DC ‘B List’ like Freedom Fighters, Hawkman or Damage but makes them thrilling page-turners that I always enjoy.

Favourite Artist.

  1. Enrico Marini - I’ve been waiting to find that artist who just displays such a supernatural ability to lay down lines of ink and colour. This guy is as good as Byrne with the sensibilities of Giraud. Eagles of Rome, Gypsy, Raptors, Desert Star and more make this a creator who could be my favourite artist every year for the foreseeable.
  2. Mirko Colak - I’ve been loving the ragged and sad eyed characters Mirko has been laying down in the Aftershock Comics series Holy Grail. I explored some of his other work and he has definitely found a new fan. He walks that skilful line of action and character and communicates emotion and desperation in his players faces just perfectly.
  3. Ralph Meyer - It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me or follows myself, Vince and Dan on the Awesome Comics podcast that European creators would loom large on this list. Meyer is a fucking grandmaster of the medium and his work on the Asgard and The Undertaker series have really caught my eye. Follow him on Instagram if you’re an artist he’s well worth a look.
  4. Marco Checchetto - I’ve been a fan of this artist since his stint on the Punisher and Punisher: War Zone with Greg Rucka a few years ago. He has a painterly yet defined style that puts him right up there at the moment for me. Everything has depth of view and a palpable drama that leads the story forcefully onwards. His Daredevil work this year has been outstanding.

Favourite Comics - Marvel.

  1. House of X / Powers of X. - These comics made the weekly reading experience a joy once again after a year that had dragged somewhat with multi-part cross-overs and childish babytalk writing. This is a master-class in writing both in plot and character. Pepe Larraz was perfect for this series. Action with consistency of character all the way through.
  2. Punisher Kill Krew - Written by Duggan with Juan Ferreyra on art. This took the (extremely) boring War of the Realms and turned it into a revenge saga where Frank, Foggy Nelson, the Black Knight and Juggernaught go after the creatures who killed the parents of New York orphans. Just gorey fun!
  3. Daredevil - Chip Zdarsky and some gorgeous Marco Checchetto art filled this tale of the fall and rise of Murdock. It’s a thriller/soap opera that keeps on trucking and is turning into one of the first things I read every month.
  4. Silver Surfer Black - Donny Cates and Tradd Moore weave something really special and really unusual in this story that would fit perfectly in an eighties issue of Metal Hurlant. A swirl of the violently visceral and the twisted grotesque beauty of an alien world. 

Favourite Comics - DC.

  1. Hawkman - This is how an ongoing should be delivered. Venditti and Bryan Hitch brought back the soaring brutality on the wing and gave the book a genuine edge alongside an outer space exploration feeling. The art team has changed recently but I haven’t been this excited since Truman took on Hawkworld.
  2. Snagglepuss - ‘Exit Stage Left’  - This was another brilliantly written series by Mark Russell that told a story of hidden secrets, political machinations, prejudice and sexuality in a way that I found to be intelligent, personal and very relevant without being obvious. 
  3. Damage - Another Venditti book that told the story of a DC Universe styled tech Hulk character. A man escaping the world out to get him and trying to work out the curse coursing through his veins. Some great and clear Tony Daniel art complimented this series that ended far too quickly.
  4. Superman 19 ‘Revealed to the World’ - Bendis really still has it! This could have easily come across as a cheap stunt but instead has such warmth and poignancy that it’ll bring a lump to your throat. Each page is a masterclass in showing and not telling and Reid kills on the art!

Favourite Comics - Image.

  1. Trees - Fuck Yeah this is BACK! Warren Ellis and Jason Howard came back to this book after a bit of a break. They manage to make it about small town life as well as the mystery of these large towers that have come from space. Big ideas, Crime thriller and mysterious soap opera are co-dependant. 
  2. Savage Dragon - Erik Larsen continues with one of the longest runs in indie comics history. A bash ‘em up soap opera with Kirby written large across layouts and line. This continues to be one of the best drawn and sauciest books out there. You really need to read this comic that is always quality.
  3. Mage - When I heard that this was back for it’s third and final(?) volume I almost shit my boxers! Matt Wagner (with Brennan Wagner on colours) has lost none of his style and coolness and tells a story of a father with powers protecting his family no matter what! - All Magic is Green!

Favourite Comics - Europe Comics.

  1. Eagles of Rome - I read the final volume of this series earlier this year and have since reread all the books, bought physical hardbacks in a language I cannot understand and met the infinitely talented Enrico Marini. More about him shortly. This remains the gold standard for action, adventure and intrigue. If you’re going to buy one book off this list it should be this one.
  2. Asgard - Written by Xavier Davison with the amazing Ralph Meyer on art this is a story of man versus nature as a stranger lands in a snowy town and offers to kill their sea serpent. It may not go as planned. Visually one of the most stunning books you’ll pick up this year.
  3. Ira Dei - Written by Vincent Burgess and art by Ronan Toulhoat this tells the story of some hard as fuck Norman warriors who fight their way across Sicily. Violent, brutal and unrelenting this is the real deal!
  4. Human - I was really drawn to this by the art by Lucas Varela. It tells the story of Hearts of Darkness but set in a strange and weird alien planet setting. Full of tribes of gorilla and ape like humanoids who battle a human and his team of androids.

Favourite Comics - Others.

  1. Sara - From the first wave of comics from the new on the scene TKO Studios this tells the story of a driven Russian female sniper. Told with absolute class by Garth Ennis, Steve Epting and Elizabeth Breitweiser on colours. A book that I read in one sitting without looking up from the page once.
  2. Dark Ark - Yes I know that this has been running for a while but it was new for me. Cullen Bunn and Juan Doe tell the story of the other ark that set sale during those Biblical floods! This one was full of demons and the dark creatures of your nightmares. I’ve just devoured the first two trades and can tell you there’s no better monster maker than Mr Doe! (Aftershock Comics).
  3. Grendel: Devil’s Odyssey - Another entry on the favs list for Matt and Brennan Wagner. This is a future story of the generational mercenary and assassin Grendel. It shows his quest to find a new planet for mankind and the battles he faces along that violent and bizarre road. (Dark Horse Comics).
  4. 7 Deadly Sins - A book that makes Deadwood look like an episode of The Good Life. This is as dirty and bloody that a western can get. Written by Tze Chen with art by Artyom Trakhanov that immediately made me a huge fan of his work.

Sunday, 22 December 2019

In Review - ‘Black Water Lilies’ from Europe Comics.

Black Water Lilies.

Script by Fred DuvalMichel Bussi 

Art by Didier Cassegrain

Full Colour - 144 pages 

£7.99 (digital only).

Published by Europe Comics (originally published in French by Dupuis). 

The Story - ‘Three willful women: one old wicked, one young and selfish, and the third in the prime of her life. A man murdered three ways: stabbed, bludgeoned, and drowned in a stream. The mystery brings brash young Inspector Laurenç to the postcard-perfect Norman village of Giverny, home to Impressionist Claude Monet’s gardens and studio. Like any small town, Giverny has its secrets. But have they to do with greed? Lust? Missing paintings? Jealous husbands? Laurenç soon finds himself head over heels for a pretty schoolteacher—and in over his head. Dider Cassegrain brings Michel Bussi’s bestselling novel to life in lush, delicate watercolors worthy of the famous canvases that lend the book its name: Monet’s immortal Water Lilies…’

This is a comics adaption of Michel Bussi’s prize winning novel of the same name.

Review - The cover drew me in with it’s astonishingly on point joining of the cross generational murder mystery I was about to read and the gentle and peaceful (mostly) art of Oscar-Claud Monet. It really is quite something!

This is a story of a whodunnit thriller set in the town of Giverny in rural France. A place that is increasingly being ruined by the ‘English speakers’ there to soak up the inspiration and locations of the Lily paintings of Monet and more. It is also a small enough town that it’s occupants know everything about each other and live in a countryside of scandal and rumours.

‘’Observe and Imagine.’’

Intertwine the very French twist on the Midsommer Murders vibe and quality of the investigation with the light and scenery of the paintings of the impressionist himself. There is also an added smouldering passion at play here between the investigator and the main suspect’s wife. A cleverly paced and played out game of romantic and sexual temptation that may well muddy the waters. These women, and one in particular, may be adorned in the flowery dresses of the rural French countryside but they have the talons of the Noir femme fatale.

At it’s hear this album has a really intriguing puzzle that you get all the necessary clues along the way for the reader to solve it. I can see why this was a bestseller and I can also see why it would seem quite a task to tackle adapting. But the comic totally works and that is both a credit to the story and the art.

The action is observed by an old woman who self-describes herself as the ‘witch’ of the area. Who is she and how does she narrate the events to come becomes an integral part of the story. Photographs appear that accelerate the intrigue and the Detective Inspector and his staff pursue these with vigorous professionalism (at least to start with.....). Later this Detective may well overstep the boundaries of his own pursuance of truth and become a part of the conspiracy himself? (I'll leave you to find out).

‘The crime of dreaming. I consent to its creation’

  • Louis Aragon ‘Nymphee’. 

The intrigue and extremely logical and detailed investigations are not carried out in the sterile confines of a police office and interview room but rather in the streets, cafes, meadows, cathedrals and riverbanks of the town and surrounding area itself. A place so beautiful and idyllic that it allows for the breathtaking artistic abilities of Didier Cassegrain to take flight. 

Cassegrain uses what appear to be gentle and blended colours to signify the personality and details of the people, landmarks and gorgeousness of the canvas he works upon. He then uses the flourish of a thicker black ink line to stake out the figures on his landscape. This art is really something to slow down and relish as you scroll onwards. I read this in the digital version on an iPad and the backlight of the device adds to the brilliant use of sunlight playing across the town. You can feel the dramatic summer heat in the air and the relaxation of the atmosphere in the grey/blue of the early evenings. For in a book so entrenched in not only a murder but also the images and history of Monet the art had to take centre stage. Every panel could be a print on your wall and it’s definitely a comic where you can marvel at each and every page. 

This is a book that I wish was a physical and translated copy. This is currently only available as a digital copy in the English language version.

This book is a must-read for fans of whodunnits and also for those with an interest in comics (and) fine art. It is also one of the best looking books you will read for sometime.

Highly recommended.

You can find out more about this book and others equally as stunning by visiting and make sure that you sign up for the newsletter.

You can also follow this company on Instagram @europecomics and on twitter @EuropeComics. Thanks again to Irina Polianina for hooking me up with a review copy.

Here are some details on the creators from the Europe Comics site.

Born in 1965 in Rouen, France, Frédéric Duvalfirst studied history. He completed his master’s degree by studying the caricatures of a newspaper during the Dreyfus Affair. He published his first book, 500 fusils, in 1995. In 2008, for comics publisher Delcourt, he published the science fiction series Meteors, illustrated by Philippe Ogaki, before tackling an old dream with illustrator Zanzim: to adapt Tartuffe as a graphic novel. In 2010, he then published the first volume of the speculative fiction series Nico (Dargaud), alongside Philippe Berthet. In 2016, he wrote the tenth volume of XIII Mystery (Dargaud), under the direction of Jean Van Hamme. The year 2018 marked the release of his latest science fiction series, Renaissance(Dargaud; Europe Comics in English), alongside Ememand Fred Blanchard. His most recent work is the masterful literary adaptation Nymphéas Noirs (Dupuis; Black Water Lilies, Europe Comics), illustrated by Cassegrain.

Michel Bussiwas born in France in 1965. He was a geography professor at the University of Rouen before publishing his first novel in 2006 (“Code Lupin”), and is now one of the most widely read French authors, most notably for his crime novels. In 2011 he published the award-winning mystery “Nymphéas noirs,” adapted as a graphic novel in 2019 by Fred Duval and Didier Cassegrain (Dupuis; “Black Water Lilies,” Europe Comics). His books have been translated in dozens of languages around the world.

Didier Cassegrainwas born in France in 1966. He studied at a vocational drawing school as well as at the Gobelins school in Paris. He then went to work on television series for France Animation before joining Disney Studios for a year, followed in turn by a stint with a company called Story. That’s where he met Fred Blanchard and Olivier Vatine, who pushed him into the comics world. Tao Bang was soon born (Delcourt, 1999). In 2019, in collaboration with Fred Duval, he illustrated the masterful literary adaptation Nymphéas Noirs (Dupuis; Black Water Lilies, Europe Comics).

Deep down, people admire crazy’.

Many thanks for reading.