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Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Quest for the Time Bird. Serge Le Tendre (Writer), Regis Loisel (Art), Inanka Hahnenberger (Translation). Titan Books (2015)

A wonderful, sprawling heroic fantasy that takes full advantage of the genre and the possibilities of comics. The aging knight Bragon is contacted by the sorceress-princess Marsa to come out of retirement for an urgent mission. The evil  god Ramor will escape his prison and bring death and devastation to the world of Akbar if he is not stopped. The only way to stop him is to find the Time Bird, this will allow Mara halt time long enough to carry out the spells required to bind Ramor back in his prison. The time to find the Time Bird is short, there are nine days to go before Ramor will be free. Bragon has to find the conch Ramon was imprisoned in then find the Time Bird. The journey takes a long and very scenic route to a final confrontation which has unexpected consequences.
Heroic fantasy is easy to get wrong, the mechanics are considerably more subtle than they appear on the surface, there is a requirement for a degree of overwriting to capture the outsized nature of the context, it has to be carefully disciplined at the same time not to be simply overblown. Serge Le Tendre does not always get the balance right, there is a consistent tendency to tell as well as show, for heroic fantasy in comics less talking usually better. At the same time the overall structure of the story and the wonderful range of locations and the stunning cast are very powerful and engaging. The cast are given the chance to establish themselves firmly before they move to their inevitable confrontations. The story does not rest completely on Bragon's broad shoulders, there is a determined cast all wanting the readers time and attention.Serge Le Tendre treats the story and the cast with the serious care, there is no winking at the audience that everyone know who ridiculous this is. Serge Le Tendre has the professional courage to take the story and the readers seriously and this gives the whole story a vital force and depth that pays off in full at the conclusion.
Regis Loisel's art is a a pleasure to read, the extremely difficult task of making a fantastic context concrete and physically present as a way to ground the action is made to look easy. The range of perspectives used give a sense of the scale of the journey as well as the different regions that exist on the world of Akbar. The details are consistently generous and frame and support the action. The cast move with great force within their context and the action is every bit as forceful as it should be. Bragon's companion the journey, Pelisse, is at first glance  set of over sized breasts on legs, the art reveals her character as much as her cleavage. She is a necessary foil to the weary experience of Bragon while creating room for a running joke that brings some nice comic relief. The colouring is everything that heroic fantasy should be, it is as big and bold as the journey, it bring the details to life and makes the world of Akbar lift off the page.
Inanka Hahnenberger' translation is transparent, while the story has a very distinct non-anglophone flavour, the words never feel other than natural in their context.
This is a feast of a comic, it takes its time to follow the heroic journey, the sweep and scope are given full reign in the art and the conclusion mixes the expected and the unexpected with flair. Wonderful in every sense.

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