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Inspired by French art, British mystery, and American noir, GRANDVILLE is definitely eclectic in its approach to telling a story. The action follows Detective Inspector LeBrock, a badger out to solve the murder of a British diplomat. Along with his adjunct, the appropriately named rat Detective Ratzi, LeBrock must follow the clues to Paris in order to prevent a much larger crime from taking place. It is a simple enough hook to what becomes an incredibly large plot, paced so that no single escalation seems a leap but still reaching its climax in about the most dramatic way possible.

The art is mostly dark, noirish in its handling of violence and mood. The streets of Paris are choked with smoke and lamplight, coated with a liberal amount of blood thanks to LeBrock's action-first style of detecting. The story is a bit of everything: part mystery, part spy thriller, part action movie. LeBrock moves seemlessly from scene to scene, the story building to a near maddening crescendo with flames reaching up into the night and bodies strewn across the fields.

For being pulled from so many genres, GRANDVILLE maintains its inner logic, something vital to these sorts of stories. Not only is it an alternative history where France won the Napoleonic Wars, but it features advanced steam technology and anthropomorphic animals. With all that, it's almost a wonder that GRANDVILLE reads as simply as it does, but nowhere does it struggle with its own conceipts. Instead it offers an unapologetic fun that is kenetic and visceral. This might not be making much of a statement, but it definitely is entertaining to watch it unfold.

Indeed, GRANDVILLE might seem something of a guilty pleasure, as the story isn't exactly the most surprising or new. The mystery moves along, but without much suspence about who is really responsible. If there would be a criticism to the writing, it would be that everything is overdone. The dialogue, the characters, the plot; everything is done to maximize the dramatic impact. It is an effective style, but in no ways subtle, instead delivering revelation after revelation with almost audible stunners.

The character work, though, is solid, and there is a humor to the work that keeps the pages turning quickly. From beginning to end, the book reads fast, not slowing down and definitely not limiting the scope of the story. By the time the dust settles, the entire world of the book has changed, and yet it comes off as organically done, as satisfying after the crazy journey that started with a dead body in a house in the English countryside.

Reviewed by Charles Payseur on January 31, 2014

by Bryan Talbot

  • Publication Date: July 5, 2011
  • Hardcover: 108 pages
  • Publisher: Dark Horse
  • ISBN-10: 1595823972
  • ISBN-13: 9781595823977