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Grandville Mon Amour by Bryan Talbot

9/10 A great read that will appeal to lovers of great graphic novels and stylish steampunk stories alike.

The second outing to Bryan Talbot’s anthropomorphic world follows hot on the heels of the cataclysmic conclusion of book one. The beefy badger DI Archie LeBrock is languishing in self-pity, driven to drink (as every good copper should be) by the guilt of Sarah’s murder. When his partner, Roderick Ratzi, informs him of the escape of Mad Dog Mastock he is galvanised back into action. The pair travel, unsanctioned, to Grandville once again – on the trail of Mastock and the trail of dead prostitutes he is leaving behind. Yet, as in the first graphic novel, there is far more to the story than a simple killing spree.

Grandville Mon Amour emulates the style of the first book by utilising the gradual revelations of a case to elaborate the history of the Steampunk world. The focus this time around is on the British Resistance who were active prior to British Independence from France. Mastock, DI LeBrock and even the excellently imagined Prime Minister Drummond share this common past, and the ethics of what each of them did during this time come into play throughout the book. The moralities of terrorism versus freedom fighting, and subtle comments about weapons of mass-destruction are effectively rendered.

In book one Archie LeBrock was a little rough around the edges, both in terms of his macho character and also the detail of his characterisation. In this book, Talbot fills out Archie’s background and creates a deeper and more convincing persona. His interaction with Billie, a prostitute who resembles Sarah, is convincing, touching and  frustrating by equal measures.

The steampunk setting of the graphic novel is exquisitely detailed, and this undoubtedly contributes to the enjoyment of the tale.

Talbot’s attention to detail and cinematic style are fabulous; the steam-powered cars, airships, wax cylinder messages, automatons all add atmosphere and style. The violence in the book is fairly intense, as is Talbot’s wont, with a fair degree of spatter and gore, but I found it less imposing than in book one.

A key feature of the series is the anthropomorphic artwork, which Talbot chose in honour of the French artist Gerard. It seems to work well here because, apart from occasional puns and bits of fun (recall Rupert’s dad in book one, and the drug-addled Snowy the dog) it doesn’t impact majorly on the story. There is some reference to the differing species, but mainly as insults, and even humans (called Doughfaces) but they embellish rather than define the story. This is in contrast to other anthropomorphic comics typified by Art Spiegelman’s Maus, wherein the species of the characters reflects their ethnic origins (cats are German, mice Jews and pigs are Polish) and play a key part in the story. Whether the anthropomorphic aspects remain a stylistic matter in future books will be interested to see.

In short this is a great read that will appeal to lovers of great graphic novels and stylish steampunk stories alike. By all accounts the series is going to run to five books, and if Bryan Talbot keeps the momentum going then they’ll be a ground breaking work.

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