Blast v4 by Manu Larcenet cover detail

Blast v4: “I Hope the Buddhists are Wrong”

Writer and Artist: Manu Larcenet
Lettering: Calix Ltd.
Translator: Thomas Scott-Railton
Published by: Dargaud/EuropeComics
Number of Pages: 205
Original Publication: 2013

 

Things Go From Bad to Worse

Polza sites with head in hands during the interrogation

There’s a lot in this series that takes place between the truths.  Everyone is a liar.  “Ken Games” had that going on, too, but it was more in the vein of hustlers keeping their secrets.

Lies and half-truths add up.  It’s tough to keep a lie going for very long.  Someone inevitably finds out.

As we begin this fourth and final volume in the series, Polza is still living on the farm with Carol and Roland, Polza’s old buddy from the psych ward.  We know they both end up dead, and your mind can race with each scene over how it might happen.  At the end of the last book, Polza said it wan’t him.  Do you believe him?  Does he have a case? Can you imagine the story where it might have happened?

While I had all sorts of scenarios racing through my head, the truth is even more disturbing and shocking.  Again, it’s lies and the sins of omission covering up dirty secrets that only make things worse.  Polza finds himself trapped in more and more of those.

 

A Brief Aside for a Thought on Nature

Blast v4 waxing poetic on nature

Something I haven’t mentioned in the previous reviews so far is that Polza is most eloquent when speaking about nature.

Living in the outdoors on a daily basis, he sees things the rest of us never would.  He can meditate on the color of the light at a certain time of year. He knows the change in season by the angle of the sun, the flowers that are blooming, and the smell of the air.

Polza is an accomplished writer, which means he observes the world around him and can tell a story in an absorbing way.  What a perfect protagonist for a book like this…

When he speaks romantically of the life he lived on the run in the woods with only a tent as a shelter, you can buy it because he also speaks so well of nature and all its small details.  Without that balance, you’d just assume he’s lying to himself or to the police he’s confessing to.  He finds beauty in the midst of his squalor.

 

The Interrogation Ends

Polza leans against the wall

Remember, the ticking bomb for the detectives in this case is that they could only hold Polza for 48 hours without charging him.  Knowing his mental history, they had to tap dance around some things to keep him talking.  They wanted him to talk as much as possible and get as many facts out of him as could help their case.

To that end, they were successful.  Even the parts he didn’t tell them confirmed some of what they were thinking.

But still, eventually, they had to push him, and at the beginning of this fourth volume, they were treading on dangerous ground.  They needed to get the last part of the story out of Polza, knowing full well that confronting him with the final events might be enough to send him over the edge.

It’s a great bit of gamesmanship, and it ends in an unexpected way.  Well, mostly unexpected.

With Polza’s story complete, what is Larcenet to do with the last 40 pages of the book?

Fill out the truth.

 

The Grand Finale

Blast v4 by Manu Larcenet ends with a documentary film

There’s a jump forward in time, months after the interrogation we spent the first three and a half books reading.  In it, the detectives are discussing the case with a documentary maker. Just about every panel is a spoiler.

This is where we get the other side of the story. As much as the interrogators have provided readers with surprises over the course of the series from the knowledge base they have that Polza doesn’t, this is where we get the rest of the blanks filled in.

I have to take back something  that I said in my earlier reviews: Polza is not as nice a guy as I had thought.  Seeing the full picture now makes many of his actions less understandable and more disturbing.

I read the last twenty pages of this book with previous books opened up in other windows on my desktop.  I was checking back and forth between the scenes as I had read them, versus how the police were now describing them.  Going back and forth like that fills in a lot of gaps.  I read the series in fairly short order, but I couldn’t remember everything.  At the very least, remembering the order of events can be tough after awhile.

In writing these four reviews in the last week, I’ve lived with the books a lot.  We’ve spent a lot of time together, whether I’m looking for the progression of events, checking on the spelling of a name, or trying to remember what we saw versus what was inferred or even left out.

I was wondering throughout the book if this wasn’t going to turn into a “The Usual Suspects” story.  Calm down, it isn’t.  But it is a story set in the framework of a single suspect spinning his yarn to entertain and mislead the police.  Except here, Polza isn’t lying or making up names or scenarios.  Polza is no Keyser Soze. He’s shaping his tale by leaving out some important bits and, the reader thinks, getting away with it.

In the end, we hear the story retold from the point of view of the police who interrogated Polza, and they fill in the gaps for readers, including some you might not have realized were there.  Suddenly, Polza is a much darker person than we gave him credit for. We’re only left wondering how much of what he told was a lie to cover his tracks, and how much of it is a truthful mental episode.  I’m leaning on the latter, but there are plenty of shades of grey you can fit this story into, too.

Understandably, these last pages are very dialogue heavy.  I don’t care.  This book is the best case ever for where an exposition dump is the best way to go.  I’m sure Larcenet could have used another ten pages to pace it out better, but it doesn’t matter.  In the end, Larcenet tells his story, and those last pages will grab your attention like nothing you’ve read so far in the book.

Larcenet end the book even stronger than he started it.  He proved he knew what he was doing and had the chops to pull it off.  “Blast” is, indeed, a masterpiece, and likely the book that will define Larcenet as a storyteller capable of great things.

It’s an 800 page book that I wanted to read again as soon as I had finished it.  That doesn’t happen too often.

 

One Open Loop

I’d have loved to see the two Russians who roughed Polza up in the third volume get caught.  I know that would likely have put too neat a bow on the story.  I’m sure it would have been seen as a story concoction to make readers happy. Happy endings don’t always happen in real life, after all.  These two transients beat up Polza badly and it never got reported.  Only months later does Polza tell the story to the police, and they’re not about to spend their time looking for those two Russians.

It would be illogical for the police to chase after them.  I understand that.  I think Larcenet made the right decision in not following up on that.

But there’s a part of me that hates them so much, I can’t stand there not being justice for what they did.

 

One More Word of Praise

The translator for this series is Thomas Scott-Railton, and he deserves a section to himself here.

Polza’s words are often eloquent and poetic. They can be musings on nature.

They can also be tricky. They can carefully conceal truths with the right choices of words.

Manu Larcenet wrote this book in French.  A direct word-for-word translation would not deliver the level of polish and style that Scott-Railton provided “Blast” across its four books.  Even when I’m praising Larcenet’s writing and how Polza speaks, or how a snarky reply made me smile or make a character look smart, that’s as much up to Scott-Railton as it is to Larcenet.  It’s impossible to tell where one ends and one begins without a fluent understand of French and the original books to compare these English editions to. I’m also not about to do that much work.

It is enough to say that Scott-Railton did an excellent job on this book in all the places it sounds good.

 

Recommended?

Blast v4 by Manu Larcenet cover

Yes. A thousand times, yes.

I think the much more pleasant “The Campbells” and “Valerian and Laureline” are the only other two series I’ve reviewed four books from.  This is the first four or more issue mini-series I’ve reviewed every book in.  The book is just that good.  It is in no way safe for the kids, and only gets worse as the story goes along. Sex, drugs, language, nudity, etc.  This book has them all. I’d understand if you skipped it for that reason.

But if you like crime books like what Ed Brubaker or Brian Bendis might write, you may like this book.  If you can handle unpleasant people doing unpleasant things, this book can satisfy.  It’s like the HBO version of a network drama.

This is Manu Larcenet’s self-proclaimed masterpiece, and it’s a title he earned.

(This is Pipeline BD 100 review #90.)

 

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