A missing girl, a string of thefts across Europe, a religious cult, the rights of human beings, and Christmas. All of these and more are explored in this volume of Grandville. The steampunk adventures of Detective Inspector Archibald “Archie” LeBrock, a large bipedal badger. Oh I did mention the world is full of fully sentient, bipedal animals, right? Grandville has a depth to it that few graphic novels or comics usually do. There are so many layers to the work it is astounding. At first look this is an anamorphic detective novel set in an alternate steampunk earth. It works very well as a detective story. You have a very noir story that has twists, but all the evidence is there for the reader that when they look back every twist and turn makes sense. There is a lost child, there is a dangerous smart and sexy woman, and there is a conspiracy larger then the original case for Archie to unravel.
Then there is the issues of religion. There is a cult lead by a very charismatic unicorn (there are mythical creatures in addition to those found in our nature). He is searching for the religious truth behind how animals became what they are today. Some characters even take up the ideas of religion vs science. This all happens naturally, and helps drive the story forward. A lesser comic would use the ideas as a soap box, but here it is natural. Just another part of the world being made to feel real.
There is also a lot dealing with racism. Humans exist in the world. Yet they are treated as servants at best, and as lesser beings at worse. They are fighting for civil rights. Again, this isn't the major plot of the book. It just weaves seamlessly in and out of the narrative. There is a lot more ideas and meat to this book then I have let on, I just don't want to spoil too much. I want the joy I felt watching things unfold to be enjoyed by you.
The ease that various ideologies, issues, and story meet up and work together is mind blowing. In just a single story so much happens, so much is spoken about without being direct or heavy handed. It is masterful. Bryan Talbot is obviously a master at the comic art form, and this newest volume of Grandville only further cements the claim.
The art is gorgeous and detailed. Each page is so wonderful you can't help but stop and examine the nuance and beauty. It is rare for my desire for what happens next in the story is stonewalled by the art work so completely. I found myself stopping and admiring the work countless times.
Grandville: Noel is a work of art. It is what comics can really achieve when they try hard enough. It works on every possible level. It is a good story, has deeper ideas while being pulpy on the surface, and works as part four in a larger series of stories while being completely accessible for a new reader. I cannot recommend this comic enough.
Writer/Artist: Bryan Talbot Publishers: Dark Horse Comics Price: $19.99 Release Date: 11/5/14 Format: OGN;Print/Digital