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The more time passes, the more Enki Bilal divides. The cartoonist, a true icon of science fiction and French anticipation, has his inveterate admirers. He indeed offered masterful works until the turn of the 1990s, including several with screenwriter Pierre Christin: Exterminator 17, The Black Order Phalanges, The Forgotten Cruise, Hunting Party and the Nikopol Trilogy. However, since his Tetralogy of the Monster, his aura has cracked.

His Bug series, the third volume of which has just been published, shows both what always intrigues Bilal and what annoys. The guideline of his scenario is promising: a virus has destroyed all digital devices and data stored in the memories of computers all over the planet. Predictable chaos ensues: deprived of memory and essential means of communication, humanity panics, states distrust each other and radicalisms run amok.

Here, the salvation of mankind may rest in the head of one man, Kameron Obb. Upon returning from a mission to Mars, he was infected by a strange blue bug that inexplicably made him the repository of the world’s memory and the only being who could bring digital machines back to life. Which makes him an asset on which all states, mafias and political groups want to get their hands on to have access to his knowledge, if not to reactivate the biodigital implants that keep their leaders alive.

Kameron Obb is still on the run in this third volume. He has reconnected with his daughter, Gemma, and communicates with her telepathically through the blue patch on her face. The bug introduced into his body manifests more and speaks to him as well, but the blue rain that was apparently causing the computer problems that girdled the moon seems to want to descend to earth. Awden Marxoe, the one who organized his mission to Mars, has reappeared and calls on him to join him in saving humanity.

Bilal orchestrates here a series of evasions and twists, but also gets entangled in a politico-spiritual gibberish… as often happens to him. His sarcasm sometimes makes you smile, but in no way lightens a compact story with very cerebral narration and dialogues. The talent of the cartoonist is above all due to the acuity with which he imagines disaster scenarios rooted in current risks or anxieties. And its drawing, recognizable among all.

However, even on this level, despite the striking beauty of certain images and compositions, the superstar of the ninth art is treading water. Bilal has been drawing from the same catalog of heads (quite limited, it must be said) for decades. Blue, gray, faded colors, as if worn by pollution, still dominate. We close this volume 3 a little perplexed while waiting for the sequel without having too much hope that it will recover and regretting that Bilal remains as much on the paths that he himself has beaten and beaten again.

Stanley Péan launches into the comic strip by signing the script and the dialogues of Fuites – Izabel Watson, volume 1, at Hands free. The comic recounts the journey of a young watchmaker who flees London for America in 1870 and lands in New Orleans where racial tensions remain high after the abolition of slavery. Izabel, whose father was treated by a black doctor who looks like the screenwriter, does not understand the reactions she provokes by befriending a former slave, longshoreman by day and musician by night.

This first volume suggests a very interesting series, led by a character with rich potential – Izabel has something naive, but has a lot of guts – and set in a bubbling era. Stanley Péan’s script is also the main quality of the album which, visually, will probably not be unanimous.

The compositions of the designer Jean-Michel Girard are reminiscent of the photo novel and the characters seem to have been glued to the sets. It all lacks relief. He also places a nudity scene as eye-catching as it is useless at the beginning of the story. His style leaning towards realism is however of an impressive precision. (Alexandre Vigneault)

Caliphate of Al Andalus, Spain. Year 976. Caliph Abd el-Rahman III and his son made Cordoba the Western capital of knowledge. With 400,000 hand-copied books, its library is the richest west of Baghdad. When Amir the vizier finds himself in power, he makes the decision to burn all the books he deems impious…

But Tarid is watching. The eunuch who watches over the library sets out to save as many titles as possible. Helped by Lubna, a slave turned copyist, and Marwan, his former apprentice turned thief, he set off on the roads of Spain with, at his side, a stubborn mule loaded with a mountain of books.

This comic book superbly written by Wilfrid Lupano and illustrated with great vivacity by Léonard Chemineau focuses on a little known, but very real event in history. The Cordoba auto-da-fé has indeed taken place. The rest may be fiction, but what fiction! The adventures of this mismatched trio over hill and dale are pure delights of humour, tenderness and wisdom. The head and the heart are delighted with this intelligent album which reminds us that freedom of thought is always under threat and that burning books is a practice which, unfortunately, continues. A great reading pleasure! (Stephanie Morin)

“I’ve always loved talking about sex with the people I love. In this comic strip by Montrealer Éloïse Marseille, the tone is set right from the start, from the first bubble. Of sex she will speak. Without complexes or taboos, the cartoonist literally puts herself naked to make us live by her side her learning of sexuality.

From her first kiss at the age of 6, to her addiction to porn, to her panicky fear of penises (and vaginas, no discrimination on that!), Éloïse Marseille lifts the veil on shame which has long invaded her when it came to sexuality. This intimate and humorous story (but nevertheless touching at times) is a most pleasant reading. It is also impossible not to recognize yourself here or there in this young woman in search of love, for whom the codes of sexuality have long remained a mystery. (Stephanie Morin)

Cartoonist Axelle Lenoir, Eisner Award nominee for What If We Were? (English version of If we were), has just published a sort of fantasized autobiography entitled Secret Passages – in English, therefore. We recognize in this album his sense of the dialogues which have punch, a self-mockery and a very funny irony. Little Axelle is inconvenient, but immensely imaginative and very endearing. Release in French planned for the end of the year or the beginning of next year. (Alexandre Vigneault)

In this anticipation story, set in 2113, cartoonist Zep recounts a world in which some humans have received an implant that links them at all times to a brain management center. But when Constant’s integrated system is hacked, he finds himself in a universe where everything escapes him, but where humanity has regained its rights. Chilling, despite a predictable outcome. (Stephanie Morin)

French-born Montrealer Mirion Malle (who gave us the delicate C’est comme ça que je disparais in 2020) does it again with a tender album where it’s about faltering love, self-discovery and the happiness of see reborn. Even if the first half of the story stretches a little long, Adieu triste amour turns out to be a gentle, but invigorating album, like a spring breeze.

https://www.lapresse.ca/arts/litterature/2022-05-11/bandes-dessinees/ce-que-la-presse-en-pense.php

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