This week I bring up a wonderful series by Christophe Blain called Isaac le Pirate. It tells the story of Isaac Sofer, who initially sees himself as a painter, but ends up joining a pirate crew, which then leads to odd and sometimes grim and sometimes humorous situations. The love of his life also sees her story told while he’s away – as he struggles to get back to her – and we get to meet some other interesting characters as well (like Jacques, Isaac’s partner-in-crime, who gets a book named after him). The series is made up of 5 books, and although it’s never been said that it’s over, all 5 were released between 2001 and 2005. It’s well worth reading for its mix of humor, drama, and high sea adventure. I’ll also recommend Blain’s Gus series, set in the wild west.
Les aventures de Spirou et Fantasio is one of those classic series that most kids who grew up reading BDs have read – I loved the series so much that I even named my first dog “Spirou.” I continue to read the main series through its creator changes – with my favourite runs being by Franquin (1-19, 24) and Tome & Janry (33-46) – but what I’ll highlight this week is a spinoff series that started a few years ago. Referred to as “Le Spirou de” (The Spirou of) it’s composed of one-shots done by different creators who are allowed a more personal take on the characters. There have been 13 releases so far, and highlights include Yann’s Le tombeau des Champignac, Emile Bravo’s Le journal d’un ingénu, and Lewis Trondheim’s Panique en Atlantique – but they’re all really fun reads, and I love reading these “alternate” takes on such classic characters.
Yesterday, in the weekly team newsletter I help produce, I started including a “bandes-dessinées” (Franco/Belgian comics) recommendation column, and figured why not share it here too. Here’s what I started with.
I love the sequential arts, and have found myself reading comics, manga, and bandes-dessinées (BD) my entire life. After half a life spent in Japan, I drifted away from the world of BD, but since moving to Montreal I’ve been diving back into that world, discovering interesting new series, while also re-reading some of the classics – and I get all of these from one of our nearby libraries, since we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of the Mordecai-Richler and Marc-Favreau libraries. Each week I’ll highlight one of these series – and yes, they’re all in French, but even if you struggle with the language, comics are a great way to practise your reading skills (and some of these may have English editions as well).
For this first column, I’ll bring up Thorgal, a series I’ve been devouring in recent months. It’s a fantasy series – with a touch of sci-fi – that tells the story of man who is raised in Viking culture, but later discovers that his roots lie elsewhere. Written by Jean Van Hamme (XIII, Largo Winch, Wayne Shelton) with fantastic art by Gzegorz Rosinski, there are 35 books in the main series so far (Van Hamme handed over the reigns to Yves Sente from the 30th volume), and a few spinoff series as well. I never got into Thorgal when I was a kid – I think I found it too dark at the time – so this was my first time reading it, and I love it. I’m not the biggest fan of fantasy, but the stories here are epic, with ongoing storylines that keep you looking forward to the next book, and the sci-fi inclusions are fun too.
I only decided to check out The Terror last week, once its season was over, and it only took me a few days to watch the whole thing (I finished by binging the final 4 episodes). What a fantastic series. It’s a slow burn, that’s for sure, and so I feel that watching it like I did was probably more enjoyable than on a weekly basis. But yeah, just an amazing story, with an outstanding setting, and horror that comes from the psychological drama of it all more than anything else. I was absolutely shocked by the scene at the end of episode 7 that involves Hickey revealing his true self. And horrified. Can’t recommend this enough, although it’s probably not for everyone.
As I just wrote, I’ve been binging Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and my favorite character on the show is the one played by Chelsea Peretti. Over the weekend I was reminded that she had done a Netflix comedy special, so I went and watched it, and I’m glad I did. What she does in Brooklyn is not unlike her stand-up style of comedy, and I love it. She also plays around a bit with the tropes of stand-up comedy specials, with sequences that are mostly weird and surreal, and that’s a kind of comedy I like. This special definitely turned me into even more of a fan.
I finally decided to give Brooklyn Nine-Nine a try (from season 1, on Netflix) and I gotta say that it’s really growing on me — to a point where I binged close to the entire season this weekend. I wouldn’t put it on the same level as The Good Place or The Last Man on Earth (my two favorite comedies from recent years, and I’m still devastated that the latter was cancelled), but it’s a solid Parks and Recreation-like. The cast is fantastic, and that’s pretty much how you get drawn in and addicted to the show. I’m sure it won’t take me long to blast through the other 4 seasons.
After Red Sparrow, Terminal, and Proud Mary, I capped my evening off with this movie, which I’d been wanting to watch for what feels like forever. This ended up being my favorite film of the bunch. I’ve been watching a lot of westerns lately, and this is a very good one, made even more interesting because it puts a woman in the lead role. A simple story, but one that was quite entertaining to watch.
After Red Sparrow and Terminal, it was on to Proud Mary. This film has its moments, but they are far and few between. I basically wanted to see a movie in which Taraji P. Henson is kicking ass, and there’s a scene towards the end that’s terrific, but it’s only 5 minutes long (it’s the action sequence that has the “Proud Mary” song playing). Unfortunately, most of the film gets caught up in the drama of rescuing a young boy, and I just didn’t find that to be particularly interesting.
Following Red Sparrow, my 2nd film of the night was Terminal, and this is a weird one. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I was attracted by the stylish visuals that I saw in the trailer. In the end, that’s pretty much the main reason to watch it, as it has some incredible lighting throughout. For that alone I would probably recommend it, even if the story itself is a bit all over the place, and not as clever as it seems to think it is. As for the actors, Margot Robbie is definitely great, and the main draw here.
A week ago, on a Saturday night, I ended up watching a quadruple-bill of films all lead by women, and I kicked it off with this. I was actually expecting something that was more action-oriented — something more Atomic Blonde, for example — but instead found it to be more on the dramatic spy thrillers side of things. I liked it fine, but can’t say I was especially wowed by it, and it did feel long at times — but I was pretty into it for the last 30-40 minutes, as it started heading towards the climax, which I didn’t see coming (I had guessed something different).