Blast v2 by Manu Larcenet painted cover detail

Blast v2: “The Apocalypse According to Saint Jacky”

Written and Drawn by: Manu Larcenet
Lettering: Calix Ltd.
Translator: Thomas Scott-Railton
Published by: Dargaud/Europe Comics
Number of Pages: 206
Original Publication: 2011

 

The Crazy Life of a Writer
Blast v2 waxes philosophical on getting drunk and how it shows the true you

One of the things I didn’t mention in the first review is that Polza is a writer. It becomes obvious in this issue.

The first half of the book is a rumination on life and freedom and nature. Polza is describing to the detectives how joyous his life has been while he’s been homeless, smelly, and drunk. It’s obvious that he’s lying to himself, or that he’s gone completely mad.

His prose is flowery. He’s using his natural writing skills to try to wow the detective.  He has a keen analysis of his life that is impressive, whether it’s coming from a deeper awareness or, let’s face it, his breaking mind.

As he goes on at some length in explaining his life’s events, you watch his life go straight downhill. He gets beat up. He gets sick. He’s constantly drunk and disoriented. He is not Thoreau, musing on the glories of life in the woods. He’s painting lipstick on a pig when he gets all romantic about nature.

Blast v2 Kids throw rocks

Living in public means that mean people might do mean things to you.

Even worse, he probably believes it. He’s so far gone that this makes sense to him.  And he has this experience he calls a “blast” to grant him this awareness that is also likely the product of his addictions or mental issues.

The problem is, his time in nature is starting to come up against other people, and disrupting their lives.  While he lived quietly in the woods in the first book, the cold weather in this book has sent him back to civilization out of necessity. He’s hiding in abandoned houses, or places where people are on vacation. He’s stealing food and the clothes off the clothes lines in back yards.

And his hallucinations are getting more disturbing.

Blast v2 a Rapa Nui shows up

I included this page because I wanted to. It’s beautiful.

As he continues to drone on about this, the detectives are clearly getting impatient. They’re not sure if he’s making stuff up, or if he’s killing time to weaken their case when they are forced into making a decision to charge him or not. Now, there’s a mental chess match going on, just a layer removed from Polza’s reflections and memoir. They can’t push him too far because he’s mentally unstable and might break. They also can’t wait for him to filibuster his way out of the room.

 

The Loneliness of Living

Saint Jacky and Polza don't get off to a great start, but they learn to understand each other.

Along the way, Polza meets up with people out in the woods.  Whether it’s a land owner kicking him out or the neighborhood kids throwing stones at him, trying to be alone in the world is a very difficult thing to pull off. What finally sends him back to civilization, though, is one particularly brutal attack that left him without any choice other than to flee the woods and regroup.

Eventually, it all leads to his meeting Jacky Jourdain, a fellow loner living in the woods.  The two strike up a bit of a friendship. Polza is no longer alone, but maybe he’d have been better off alone.  Jacky is a drug dealer, and Polza finds himself slowly sucked into that world.  The mix of his mental issues, his tendency to lie to himself and to others to get through the day, and some of Jacky’s issues is a lethal cocktail, if you’ll pardon the pun.

You know it won’t end well, but it’s still shocking when it does.  Polza has to put up with a lot of crap in this book, and his greatest skill is in bottling it all up and surviving, despite of it.

At this point, you’re starting to feel sorry for Polza and all the trouble he’s gotten himself into.

 

Pacing and Storytelling

Larcenet layers this all together well. His scenes have jumpy cuts at times, just to throw you off balance.  (Or maybe to mirror Polza’s mind.) He can also go the other way, though, and expand out a single moment to more panels to highlight a thing or to add in some symbolism.  He can tie experiences together with a visual cue to the past.

While this book is, at its heart, literally a talking heads book — it’s Polza telling his story to two cops — Larcenet tells the story with very dramatic visuals.  You do need to pay attention to the art as you’re reading this book.  Larcenet is capable of some very subtle facial expressions that fill out scenes to explain what a character is thinking. Those characters don’t need to say it out loud.

This volume feels more traditionally paced than the first. The first book had a lot more of those slower moments that stretched across pages.  This book doubles down on the discussions in the box where the detectives are questioning Polza.    While there are still moments in those scenes, there’s also an increased number of word balloons per page to handle the conversations.  They move quickly, though.

Blast v2 still has some tense quiet moments, when the detectives and the suspect stare at each other.

The interrogation moves into a new room at one point in the book, likely for no better reason than to provide visual interest and to give Larcenet something new to draw besides that blank room with a table, a pole to handcuff him to, and a two way mirror. Surrounding the questioning with a room full of shelves of paper and files is a good look.  It gives a little bit of a busier look behind the action that makes the pages feel more complete in some kind of way.

 

 

Recommended?

Blast v2 by Manu Larcenet cover

Yes. Still. I’ve been sucked into this book completely. I have other books I should be reading and other reviews I should be writing, but nothing else looks as interesting to me at the moment.

Yes, there’s also an elephant in the book. There’s some talk in the book about memories, and who better to symbolize that than the animal who never forgets?

Since this is a continuous story, I’d still recommend starting at the first volume, but it’s worth it.

And if Volume 2 was a gut punch, Volume 3 will blow your mind… Stop back tomorrow for my review of the next chapter in Manu Larcenet’s magnum opus.

(This is Pipeline BD 100 review #88.)

 

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