From the stack: Glacial Period

December 30, 2006

I knew if I put together any kind of year-end list prior to January 1, some publisher would drop one more book that should be on it. Sure enough, NBM released Nicolas De Crécy’s Glacial Period on Thursday, proving that the year isn’t over until the fat, genetically modified dog sings.

It’s the first of four books produced in cooperation with the Louvre, inviting comics artists to offer their interpretations of the great institution. De Crécy looks backwards, setting his story far into the future when Europe has been buried under ice and snow. A group of archeologists are tracking down rumors of a great fortress and stumble across the museum.

They’re a group straight out of central casting – the macho adventurer, the heiress, the bookworm, and the hapless assistant – but De Crécy is playful enough to toy with reader expectations of their roles. Familiarity gives way as you see them interact with each other and react to their discovery.

And they aren’t essential to begin with. The real hero is Hulk, the genetically modified dog mentioned earlier. Bespectacled and articulate, the chunky hound can smell history like some of his ancestors could detect truffles. He bristles a bit at the foibles and insensitivities of his human companions, but he’s largely resigned to them. He knows the expedition would be doomed to failure without him.

Glacial Period has something of the rambling quirkiness of Tove Jansson’s Moomin (Drawn & Quarterly). The discovery of the Louvre is fodder for amusing philosophical detours, with the explorers wondering if its creators were literate or merely pictographic in their communication. (Imagine the scholars who found the Lascaux cave paintings evaluating Delacroix and Monet in the same terms.) One arranges the portraits in what he believes is a pictorial history of the culture’s inception, peak, and decline. And De Crécy also extrapolates beyond how the viewer sees art to give equal time, letting the art get its own word in on its audience.

It’s good, imaginative fun, and it’s beautifully rendered. From the stark landscapes of the early pages to the packed imagery of later passages, De Crécy balances composition and detail wonderfully. The palette of soft pastels, moving from cool to warm, is gorgeously applied.

I had some initial reservations about the book’s price — $14.95 for 80 pages – but those faded in the face of the book itself. It’s beautifully produced and carefully annotated; I wouldn’t call it a bargain, but it’s worth it.

Glacial Period is a delightfully imaginative, even loopy look at art. I hope NBM publishes the rest of the graphic novels created through the initiative.

(A preview of the book is available at NBM’s web site. There’s also an article [in French] on the book’s debut at the Louvre at Actua BD, found via The Comics Reporter.)