Friday, September 11, 2009

Flashback Friday: La Teigne review

We're back with another "Flashback Friday," in which I unearth a bit of older, pre-blog work I've done. A practice of "ArchaeoloGene," if you will.

This week we present an orphaned review originally written for a proposed book entitled Read This Comic. A collection of reviews and original comics & illustrations from the (then) amazingly prolific -- and international -- members of the comix@ discussion list, RTC sadly never made it past a dummy sampler which intrepid editor Tom Furtwangler printed and distributed at SPX in 1998. I can't recall why the final book never materialized; my guess is that "real life" (whatever that is) intruded on all of the participants.

In any event, here's my contribution that appeared in that sampler. (I have a memory that I had another one ready to go, as well; I'll have to see if I have a version archived somewhere.) I have no idea if this comic is even in print anymore; I doubt there was ever an edition published for the North American comics market. Publishers, this is a little gem that deserves to be seen on these shores (hint, hint!). So, without further ado...

La Teigne
Thierry Robin

b&w, 112 pages, paperback
Tohu Bohu - Les Humanoïdes Associés, 1998
ISBN 2731613033

This six-chapter mute story concerning the adventures of a short, cufflink-wearing demon really surprised me with its depth. ("Mute" in the sense that there is no dialogue or narration, just sound effects -- oh, and the laugh reprinted below.) My trusty Oxford-Hachete French Dictionary defines teigne as a "real [or "nasty"] piece of work," and that's just what this little demon appears to be when we first meet him.
Chapter One offers energetic, kinetic frenzy, as the demon destroys everything he comes across, either by stomping it to bits with his feet or by lobbing an ever-increasing number of skull-shaped grenades. The end of this first eight-page section, though -- showing the demon looking with sadness over the ruin he has caused -- signals the possibility of actual emotional depth, something of which the story's "Milk & Cheese"-esque mayhem doesn't initially seem capable.

Chapter Two introduces the demon's foil, a shmoo-like loafer: spongy, sedentary, and smiling, he's (it's?) the very antithesis of our "hero." Robin shows a real knack for visual characterizaton in this chapter, as the demon's facial expressions run the gamut from glee to contemplation, from deviousness to dejection, deceit, and, finally, despair.
The rest of La Teigne plays out this tale of "irresistible force meets immovable object" in a variety of fashions and over a broad range of settings, including a goofy, disturbing, and oddly prescient dream sequence; a portion reminiscent of Aliens' Ripley in the exoskeleton; and an O. Henry-esque[*] ending which, among other effects, will make it impossible for you to look at Watchmen ever again without snickering.

Who would have thought that a wacky little book like this would end up as a meditation on compulsion and begrudging admiration -- and (almost) love? La Teigne is a very rewarding silent "read," and I found that it got even better with re-readings -- always a good sign.

[*] By sheer coincidence, today, September 11, marks the 147th anniversary of William Sydney "O. Henry" Porter's birth.

Images © 1998 Les Humanoïdes Associés

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Blogger dberona said...

Hey Gene, This was one of my favorite mute books...glad to read you enjoyed it too!

9/18/2009 8:06 AM  
Blogger Gene Kannenberg, Jr. said...

Whew! Glad to hear that the authority on mute comics agrees with me :-)

Nice to see you here, David!

9/21/2009 9:51 AM  
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