Esteban v2 by Matthieu Bonhomme cover detail

Esteban v2: “Hunted!”

Writer: Matthieu Bonhomme
Artist: Matthieu Bonhomme
Colorist: Delphine Chedru
Lettering: Calix Ltd.
Translator: Montana Kane
Published by: Dupuis/EuropeComics
Number of Pages: 51
Original Publication: 2012

 

Let’s Start at the Beginning

Esteban receives applause back on the ship after harpooning the whale

With the ending of the first volume, Esteban is now a welcome part of the crew. He’s a harpoon guy capable of taking down the biggest whales in the ocean.  Here he is (above) returning to the ship after his big kill.

With that acceptance comes education, as the book starts with a story of the crew’s first whale hunt with their Captain, and what went right and wrong. It’s a strong beginning to the book and answers the question of the origin of the Captain’s missing eye.

It’s a bit of a somber start to the book. The real point of it, though, is to show the crew at its heights.  Early in their time as crew, they worked together well, and never stopped working.  They had ridiculously successful catches.  Luck was on their side. Everything went their way.

We’re about to see what happens on the flip side.

But, first, there’s the most epic ship race in the history of comics.

You know how people complain that car races never work in comics? It’s tough to do them right. Now imagine a boat race. With a sailboat.  Matthieu Bonhomme uses a few tricks to pull it off. Hold on, I’ll show you what a mean in a bit. First, let’s talk story.

 

The Weak Spot

In Esteban v2, the Captain grows angry at those who waste whales.

You know how everyone has their weak spot? It’s that one thing they see that drives them temporarily insane. I know a guy where littering did that to him. For others, it might be generic road rage — people who don’t turn right on red, or drive 5 miles under the speed limit or don’t hit the gas the second the light turns green.

Logically, there’s nothing they can do about it and they’re getting bent out of shape for nothing, but there’s no arguing with them. It’s stuck in their craw.

We discover the Captain’s weak spot in this book (which was briefly mentioned in volume 1), which leads to a needlessly bad plan that he then doubles down on and only makes things worse.  The Captain is the real star of this book, in many ways, with Esteban almost a supporting character.

The interesting thing Bonhomme does with his character in this book is contrast the maniac he becomes in the current timeline versus the more human person he was in the flashback at the top of the book.  There, we see his “softer” side and the consequences of it.  The Captain is a more complex figure than perhaps we gave Bonhomme credit for in the first book.

Along the way, we get some side short stories, notably a couple from Esteban that were part of his people’s oral traditions, no doubt. They’re little parables that teach a lesson that hopefully won’t see parallels in his current life.

If only life were so generous…

 

The Crew

The crew of the Leviathan in Matthieu Bonhomme's Esteban v2

The crew gets a momentary breather from their chase.

We also get more characterization of the crew, in general.  There’s too many of them to make total individuals out of.  That would only be distracting to the main point of this book, which is Esteban’s story.

I think this part is important, though: While there are attitudes amongst them and the occasional display of frustration, up until this point in the series the crew is generally a hard-working, productive group.  They are not a bunch of drama factories.

The crew of the Leviathan in happier times

They are a bit rough and tumble in their attitudes, but they are ultimately good people.  This is not a book about internal divisions and the drama that can be created from bad people doing bad things.  It’s mostly man against nature. The men stick together. Their pasts are left there.

There’s some dissension in the ranks on this one, as the Captain plans go awry. It’s only going to get worse in volume three.

 

Drawing the Chase

The centerpiece of the album is an extended sequence where the ship Esteban is working on comes into conflict with a rival ship. As soon as Esteban’s ship is being pursued, Bonhomme’s storytelling shifts.

Actually, it starts earlier, with the ship encountering issues in the increasingly cold waters.  Icebergs are starting to form, and rough seas combine to make for some harrowing adventures.  That bleeds directly into the chase scene.

Bonhomme stages it beautifully. It’s the Leviathan crew versus and enemy that intimidates them from afar. The mere presence of this rival ship is a danger. Combined with the rough seas, it drives the crew and the Captain up to the edge.

The storytelling begins to changes as this sequence develops.  Things become more hectic and more granular.

Esteban v2: The Captain must avoid the icebergs

The pages start increasing the number of panels. It reminds me a bit of an action movie, where the number of cuts in a scene might increase to show the chaos and the quickness of the scene.  Bonhomme wants to show every last motion and every last command during this sequence.  Everything gets punctuated by being in its own panel.  You might be flipping the pages more slowly because you have so many panels to read, but you’ll also be moving your eyes constantly across the pages.

These panels are not so tiny as to remove all detail. Everything is super clear.  This isn’t a bunch of silhouettes or closeups.  This is still full-fledged storytelling with no shortcuts.

The bad guys have a nasty exploding harpoon gun thing to use against the Leviathan in Esteban v2

The ship pursuing them is made out to be the bad guys by The Captain, for reasons I’ll hold off on talking about here for spoilers.  Bonhomme keeps them always at a distance and always in the dark. Their ship is black and shadowy. When we see the people on the ship, we see them at the same distance as Esteban and the crew of The Leviathan see them: small, far away, and mostly in shadows.  Bonhomme picks a good time to go crazy with his crayons/charcoals/whatever those are.

It gives the other ship a wonderful menacing feeling.  It’s on that doesn’t let up for the rest of the book, and it’s a danger that has no easy escape.

It all leads to the biggest cliffhanger of the series.

To be continued in v3…

Recommended?

Esteban v2 by Matthieu Bonhomme cover

Yes! No hesitations. The way Bonhomme crafts the chase scenes in the second half of the book displays a mastery of craft. We get an answer to one of the obvious questions of the series that just serves to open the Captain up to all sorts of interesting characterization. And Esteban is still a good kid worth rooting for.

Now we just need to find out how The Captain knew his mother…  There are three remaining books in the series.

(This is Pipeline BD 100 review #86.)

 

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