Page 45 Review by Jonathan
"The irony is that Fantomas is indeed readying his revenge. That's why the city is so quiet tonight.
"Paris is holding its breath, Fandor... Paris is holding its breath."
Maybe Paris just has hiccups?
Here is the excited exhalation from this particular breathless behemoth of periodicals...
"Freely adapted from the work of Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre, with a plot worthy of the best black novels, Rocheleau plunges the reader into the Paris of the 1910s and provokes terror and fascination by resuscitating Fantomas, the evil character with a hundred faces ... Fantomas is the first superhero in history. All masked men and women who grace the pages of American comics and movie screens are his illegitimate children."
I think they mean supervillain, surely, but I get the rapier-sharp point. It's a bold statement, though, that those beloved American icons Batman and Spider-Man are the bastard offspring of a psychopathic French dandy...?
So extrapolating wildly... basically, what they're saying is it is the French who are responsible for a genre-drowning sub-niche that threatens to subsume the quality artistic output so beloved at Page 45 which is striving valiantly just for its fair share of the wider market. Why would you want to claim that?
Zut alors! It's like saying you voted for Brexit...
I'm pulling the proverbial frog's leg, by the way, not least because to my mind this is pure crackpot crime that needs no tightening up by passing references to the newly found and hopefully soon forgotten Gallic genealogy of capes... There's just a pure 24-karat pulpy period preposterousness to the story which sees Fantomas trying to steal all the gold in Paris, including the gilding on the roof of Les Invalides and stripping the statues on the Alexandre III bridge. Not to mention those Napoleon coins in the Bank Of France and The Mint which are propping up the entire French economy and thus the country... That's a lot of bling. It wouldn't be good for those in power if it were to disappear overnight, now, would it?
The surprisingly competent if understandably frustrated police are well aware of Fantomas' scheme but the master of disguise seems mysteriously able to stay one step ahead of the long, rather well-tailored arm of the law... I wonder how that might be...? Okay, so maybe they're not that competent.
If you like your crime with a dash of daft and a grind of gruesome, this will be well seasoned to your tastes. Writer Oliver Bouquet was only familiar to me for stepping in on the scripting for the concluding third part of SNOWPIERCER with artist Jean-Marc Rochette, which he finished off very well, I must say.
Art-wise, it's not your typical ligne claire Euro-fare, not at all. Julie Rocheleau, who excelled on ABOUT BETTY'S BOOB, penned by Vero Cazot, returns with her enticing blend of subtle, soft yet striking pencils and swathes of strong colours. Here the combination of glossy paper and bolder colours only serves to add to the drama and the tension.
A passing point of reference that sprang to mind, which I'll throw into your path to catch you unawares like a well-placed caltrop, would be Kyle Baker in full-on colourful YOU ARE HERE mode, for the occasionally slightly exaggerated facial features.
Once again, I can only applaud Titan for expanding their horizons to take us on a trip to the continent as they have before under their Statix Press imprint with the likes of THE BEAUTIFUL DEATH and KONUNGAR, plus of course also the SNOWPIERCER trilogy and UNIVERSAL WAR ONE. At least we won't need a visa to read bandes dessinées after Brexit. If it actually happens... maybe Fantomas can come back to steal all Jacob Rees-Mogg's gold... I'd pay good money to see that.