Spirou and Fantasio v5 The Marsupilami Thieves from Cinebook Header

Spirou and Fantasio v5: “The Marsupilami Thieves”

I love Marsupilami as a character design.  That long tail gives any imaginative creator the chance to make some pretty interesting visuals in a comic book.  I even own a French volume from the Marsupilami series that I picked up from StuartNg books a few years back. I can’t read much of it, but I love looking at the art.  It looks like Tome and Janry, but where everyone is just a little shorter.

I’m very happy that Cinebook is starting to reprint that Marsupilami series in English this month with two new volumes. You can bet the house that I’ll be reviewing one or both of those.

So, when “Spirou and Fantasia: The Marsupilami Thieves” exists?  Take my money, please!

Spirou and Fantasio v5 The Marsupilami Thieves from Cinebook

This Is Not My Beautiful Franquin

I jumped at this book as soon as it came out just for that reason: Franquin drawing the little yellow polka dotted furry guy who only says, “Hubba!”

Immediately, though, I was surprised to open the book and not see what I was expecting.  Andre Franquin drew the book, but — it looks nothing like Gomer the Goof.  This is a younger Franquin drawing in a much different style.  It feels much more linge claire. The characters, themselves, feel tall and wirey.  Franquin elongated the characters, basically.

They still have a good sense of action and strong posing, but I can’t help but look at this book and think it’s only half the Franquin whose work I love so much.

Spip jumping into action against a border guard is a delight.

Spip jumping into action is always a delight. (Click to view larger.)

It’s also much more regimented.  Not only are the inks cleaner and flatter, but the page layouts are rigid. Every page is four tiers.  They’re not as wide as the page, and there’s always a feeling of a break between the top and lower half of the page.  That’s what serialized comics will get you, I guess.

It just feels like a style meant more for newer or younger comic readers, done in a style closer to Herge’s, or what some of the more generic comic strip artists of the day may be drawing.  It gets very stripped down in spots, too, down to characters who have eyes but no eyeballs, for example.

The storytelling is perfectly clear, though, and I have no complaints about following the events of this story. They’re crystal clear.  There’s a strong command of storytelling evident on these pages, and of keeping things accessible.  What it lacks in flair and style, it more than makes up for with that.

 

But, Wait!  There’s a Story, Too!

Spirou and Fantasio, who had captured Marsupilami in the land of Palombia, find themselves heartbroken that the animal is being kept in a zoo.  They want to break him out, but someone beats them to it. This results in the longest hunt for a missing animal in comics history.  The story spreads out over the course of at least six weeks. (Seriously, there’s a “One Month Later” caption on one panel in the middle of their hunt for Marsupilami.)

The boys drop their entire lives to look into this. They’re serious about rectifying their mistake.

Spirou versus the Border Guard

The sequence with the slow border guard is the funniest part of the book. (Click to view larger.)

This involves a run-in with border security, a shady traveling circus, magic pills, and Spip the Squirrel!  I love that little guy, too…

It’s all very well paced.  There are moments of frantic action after rising tension, followed by a regrouping and a slow climb back up to the craziness.  It’s a roller coaster road, though one without consequences that are too scary.  The new supporting characters aren’t too memorable, either.  It’s like the book has a strong recipe, but lacks a couple of spices to make it more memorable.

 

Unfortunately

The Marsupilami thieves realize the error of their ways and set out to save him.

Click on the image to see larger version.

Marsupilami is a plot device in this book.  He’s basically the MacGuffin. The point is to set the two boys off on an adventure in some other country for a few weeks, have them play around the circus, and eventually save the day for a poor defenseless creature they’re starting to feel badly about having kidnapped from his home country in a previous adventure.

When he’s on panel, he’s spry and lively, bouncing all around and often frozen in mid-air or crouched on the ground.  There’s just not enough of him.

He’s a guest star in Spirou and Fantasio’s book, which I suppose makes sense.

 

Nice Book Bonus

After the story, Cinebook includes a three page article describing the history of the series, including art samples from the major art teams.  Yes, that includes Jose-Luis Munuera’s sample, too.  The current creative team, Yoann and Vehlmann, have a nice style that looks to fit right in.  It’s got some of Franquin’s style without going as far with it as Tome and Janry. It’s a nice blend.

Here’s the catch: That history is only available in the print edition, not the digital one.  There’s your inducement to go paper with this one, if you choose to pick it up in the first place…

 

Recommended?

I’m not sure.  It’s not a bad story by any means.  I think it’ll suit a younger audience well, and I’m sure a lot of people closer to my age will accept it, too.  But it lacks that extra bit of styling that sells the series for me. I don’t have that connection with Spirou that I would if I had grown up in Belgium or France.  You need to sell me on something more here.

I don’t regret reading it at all, I’m just not excited by it. I guess I’m just looking for Marsupilami’s series, and I’ll get that soon enough.  Yay!

(This is Pipeline BD 100 review #73.)

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1 Comment

  • JC LEBOURDAIS October 4, 2017 at 7:42 pm

    You’re right, this is early Franquin, still very much walking in the footsteps of his Master Jijé. It’d take a few volumes for him to morph into his blooming personal style (basically around the Zorglub period). Gaston Lagaffe also has two phases but came later in his career, yet the differences are palpable if you browse through the series. Franquin is one of those artists whose style was never stale, it kept evolving all the way until Idées Noires, his final opus which most consider his masterpiece. At the time of this Marsu album, Spirou was very much aimed at kids and would only mature in the following decade.

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