Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Review: Glacial Period

Glacial Period
by Nicolas De Crécy
NBM ComicsLit, $14.95

This is a strange graphic novella, part future travelogue, part art & cultural critique, part ecological warning tract, and part absurdist narrative.

The book basically breaks down into three acts. In the first, we are introduced to a group of archaeologist-anthropologist-explorers in a far future Earth ravaged by ecological catastrophe into a glacial wasteland. They are accompanied by talking hybrid pig-dogs who are for no discernible reason are named after American super-heroes like Hulk & Spider-Man. (One wonders if this was an unfortunate choice by the translator and that perhaps in the original French they were named after famous European comic characters--Tintin & Asterix perhaps?) We learn that the explorers are looking for artifacts from our earlier civilization, and perhaps a great city; also, that one of the pig-dogs, Hulk, has untoward feelings towards his human mistress.

In the second act, Hulk and the humans separately stumble upon different parts of the Louvre, recently uncovered via a snow-slide from its icy entombment. The humans discover the various paintings hung in the museum and completely misinterpret what they represent.

In the third act, the statures and various pieces of representational art come to life and begin to hound poor Hulk, impressing upon his the history of the Louvre and the downfall of the prior civilization. Hulk then mounts one of the large dog-like statues and rescues two of the humans who had become trapped in a mini-avalanche. They ride off into the sunset.

The plot summary above doesn't even begin to describe the strangeness, so I don't feel that I'm giving much away. The best part is the satirical second act, as the explorers take the representations of their finds far too literally. It serves as a critique of the potential follies of anthropology as well as the times that produced the art in question. The other parts of the narrative don't fare as well; the introductory section establishes relationships that are not successfully followed through on, while the end defies logic and undercuts the earlier parts with its use of the fantastic and absurd that comes out of nowhere. My understanding is that this is De Crécy's style; he just needed to either curtail it here or set us up better for it.

De Crécy, a graduate of the Angoulême comics art school, is a skilled storyteller and is able to work the reproductions of the various art works into his work with ease. This is partially an educational enterprise, done in conjunction with the Louvre to promote appreciation of the arts in general and their collections in particular. I'm not sure this is what they were expecting!

Still, there's enough good stuff here to recommendthat you consider giving it a look.

Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

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