Books, Uncategorized

The Colony – Nicolas Debon

When we think of Anarchism in the world of comics (or graphic novels, whichever you prefer), we often turn to Alan Moore’s “V for Vendetta” and tales of attempts to overthrow those in power due to corruption, however, theres actually alot more to the ideals behind anarchism than explosions, aggression and sticking ones finger up at politicians and its this other side that Nicolas Debon tries to teach us as he tells of the true story of Fortune Henry and the colony of L’Essai he founded, for a brief period of time, in the early 1900’s before the world fell into chaos as the Great War fell upon us.

The book opens with a man taking ownership of a plot of land, thought to be inhabitable and unworkable, he begins to transform it. The locals treat him with suspicion, often talking of the devil or wild man in the woods. But before long a small handful of people begin to take an interest in what he is doing and ultimately join him, as the colony grows, the workload also increases, they build settlements, work the land and sell produce at local markets.

However, its not enough for Henry, he strives for change, people believe in what they feel he is trying to do and his ideals of breaking down social constructs, promoting communism (or socialism, though its definetly the former that he says he is trying to bring to fruition, even to the extent of his first born having “no known parents” on his birth certificate as he “belongs to the colony”). He sets up a printing press, first selling flyers to promote the colony and the ideals it was founded upon, though as ever with such things he begins to take ownership, of his responsibility within the colony and also of his partner, acting jealous when she is around other men and resorting to violence when she questions his motives.

As his message spreads, his views become more damaging to the establishment and he is ultimately imprisoned, once free he finds that, without him, L’Essai has fallen apart and the colonists have moved on.

At around 80 pages, this is a short tale, covering the basics, additional information about Fortune Henry is provided at the back of the book, but you’re given a sort of one sided, almost diary like telling of the foundation and falling of L’Essai, albeit told alongside some beautiful art work that looks hand-painted, the earthy tones used give the impression of the book being hand-crafted and fit in perfectly with both the tale being told and the time period it is taken from and Debon does a wonderful job of just allowing the story to work towards its natural end, picking the exact moments to tell, be it the work and turmoil the colonists go through as the seasons and years progress, or the emotional challenges Henry faces. We’re never forced to endure anything particularly long, instead being given a snippet of the tale of L’Essai told in simple panels, though when Debon does give us a full page panel its always a wonderful piece of art work.

That said, this isn’t for every one. I can easily see people wanting some real history feeling like there’s not enough here, likewise, there’s not alot of incident or action to speak of to excite, its not that kind of tale. But if you want to read something that tells a true story that you hadn’t known of, The Colony will fit that brief absolutely perfectly.

Books

Sandman Overture – Neil Gaiman, J.H. Williams III, Dave Stewart

I’ve said already that I’ve been on a bit of a Neil Gaiman binge this year. The first thing I read by him was American Gods, which I read back in 2017 but more recently, as part of my book club, I’ve read through Norse Mythology and Neverwhere, both of which I’ve really enjoyed. Sandman Overture is my first Gaiman comic, and as a prequel to this work it seemed like an excellent place to start.

It’s also an excellent place to finish if you aren’t new to Sandman. The plot, or how I’ve interpreted it, is about the end and the beginning of creation, the universe and all thats in it both burns out and is created anew, and its not until the final issue that all the strands and characters ramblings begin to make sense.

I’ll state now that its not the easiest of graphic novels to read, possibly due to needing to know who some of the characters are beyond how they present here and some of the relationships between Morpheus and his “family”, although the feeling is that knowing these things would be beneficial in only understanding the reasons for the actions of those who Morpheus interacts with and how they feel about the central figure of the book. Another reason its difficult to read is that its creators have decided to play with the medium available to them, there are foldouts in a few places, completely blank pages and even a double spread where you have to turn the book through 180 degrees in order to follow what happens.

All of which can be a bit overwhelming, add in the sheer amount of artwork available on (almost) every page and the detail within those pages and you’d be forgiven for taking the book in in smaller chunks in order to appreciate the work that has gone into it fully. It really is an utterly beautiful piece of work, J.H. Williams III’s art and Dave Stewarts’ colours really pop off the page and the way in which each character has their own style of speech bubble, complete with unique coloured background/text. I realise none of this is unique to this particular piece of work or the creators here but the combination of all of the above makes Sandman Overture one of the most visually striking comic books I’ve ever read.

As a concept its definetly gotten me interested in exploring the character further so its yet another series I’ve now started that I feel compelled to complete (with two of Alan Moore’s works, Swamp Thing and Promethea, also being among that list) and I look forward to reading obtaining Sandman Vol.1 at some point in the future (although its not like I have a lack of books to read!)