Cover for Back to Basics by Manu Larcenet and Jean-Yves Ferri volume 2

Back to Basics v2: “Making Plans”

Manu Settles In

Previously on PipelineComics.com, I talked about the first volume of “Back to Basics,” a somewhat autobiographical slice-of-life series about Manu Larcenet which Jean-Yves Ferri writes.

With the second volume, Manu has settled into his new living situation.  He’s getting back to work at the drawing table, knows the neighbors to avoid and the ones who could be helpful, and is almost starting to fit in around the town.

He is researching how to plan a proper vegetable garden.  He is feeling that much at home now.

Not that everything is going swimmingly:  A slug in his garden still scares him.  And when he needs something for his computer or for his art supplies, he confuses the local storekeeper with his special orders.

 

Things Take a Slightly More Serious Turn

The big tension in the second volume, though, is Mariette’s push to have a baby.  Manu deflects, ignores, and avoids the topic with her as much as possible, usually talking about creating something in his vegetable garden. But he does have to come to terms with the idea of being a father by the end of the book, and his friend the Guru high in the tree needs to ask him the right questions.

Manu wonders out loud in front of his drawing board about having a baby.

We also have a new character in Aesop, one of the neighbor’s nephew.  He occasionally can be seen hanging out with Manu and Mariette, or accompanying Manu on a walk in the woods. He’s young and naive. His questions and viewpoint make him the perfect sounding board/foil for Manu. But, perhaps more importantly, he’s there to show Manu that kids aren’t as scary as he thinks.

Knowing there are three more books ahead in the series, still, I can just tell that this isn’t going away anytime soon. Lots of comic strips breathe new lives into themselves with a new baby.  Why would “Back to Basics” be any different?

 

The Big Finish

Jean-Yves Ferri very cleverly structures this volume to tell a bigger story.

At first, you notice that the structure of his stories follows classic comic strip formats — the same theme or situation plays out across four to six strips at a time, often with a minor bit of variation between each.  If Manu goes to the store, that conversation with the owner might last for three or four pages.  Each strip is funny, but the slow burn builds on itself.

Then you get the callbacks.  Terri refers back to other unseen townsfolk we haven’t seen in a long time, and previous stories from earlier in this volume or even in the previous one.

The boxes even return in the middle of the baby storyline.

Even the boxes get a callback in the middle of the baby storyline.

In this second volume, characters refer to the town’s Pig Festival, starting when Manu is asked to draw a poster for it.  At the end of the issue, everyone winds up coming together for the Pig Festival in a most unexpected way.  There are lots of characters and story bits in those last few pages that built up over the entire book.

The whole thing reminds me a bit of some sort of Gilmore Girls plot line. You have the small town, the crazy traditions, and the one person with a larger view of the world who finds them all a bit mad.

Cover Design

One of the things I enjoy about Franco-Belgian comics is the cover designs. In series, they all follow their own template, helping tie the series together.

“Back to Basics” is no different.  I don’t know if I’ll be reviewing the rest of the books in the series, so let me just show you what the five books look like, side-by-side.

All Back to Basic covers side by side

That’s an awful lot of negative space, and it works.  Putting the characters and their environment along the bottom third of the cover or so below a solid color background of pure negative space works.  The backgrounds on the lower part of the cover are always curved, though. Never a straight line.

Looking at them side by side here, they almost perfectly line up along those background curve lines.

You can see these books on the stands from 50 feet away, and they look great.

Recommended?

Manu Larcenet Back to Basics v2 cover

Yes.  I love Larcenet’s art style, and Ferri’s humor is spot on.  Couldn’t ask for much more.

OK, maybe I’d argue against using the crossbar-I for the first word in a sentence, but you’re all sick of hearing me argue about that at this point…  Trust me — it got better between volumes 1 and 2.  I’ll take the improvement.

(This is Pipeline BD 100 review #20.)

3 Comments

  • JC Lebourdais February 14, 2017 at 4:53 am

    I’m quite impressed by the variety of things you read and cover here. From Ducobu to Larcenet that’s quite a leap .) That’s truly the asset of French Comics not to be cornered into the Super-hero genre like US comics are. Manga does that quite well too. There’s something for everyone.

    Reply
  • Augie February 15, 2017 at 3:08 pm

    Thanks — I’m interested in a lot of different things. Except 16 volume series about Elves. I have to draw the line somewhere. Even if they’re on sale at Comixology this week, I can’t get into THAT….

    Wait till you see what’s up next! 😉

    Reply
  • JC Lebourdais February 15, 2017 at 4:01 pm

    You mean Elfquest?
    In that case you should definitely try Lanfeust, if someone ever dares translate it into english.
    That should cure you for good 🙂

    Reply

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