Esteban v3 by Matthieu Bonhomme cover detail

Esteban v3: “Survival”

Writer: Matthieu Bonhomme
Artist: Matthieu Bonhomme
Colorist: Delphine Chedru
Lettering: Calix Ltd.
Translator: Montana Kane
Published by: Dupuis/EuropeComics
Number of Pages: 59
Original Publication: 2009

 

At the end of the second volume, the crew of The Leviathan sat on their boat, stuck on the ice, with the steamer who effectively trapped them there taking off for greener pastures. With the weather growing colder and the ice growing thicker, the crew didn’t know how long they could survive without getting off that ice.

The third volume, then, becomes the struggle to stay alive, and to survive. Supplies are tight and need to be rationed. The crew trusts their captain, but dire circumstances don’t always bring out the best in people. Can the boat somehow get through the ice? Can they survive on the ice until the next melt? How desperate will things get?

Will they resort to cannibalism?!?  (No, they won’t, though part of me thought that was coming at one point…)

 

From Chase to Survival

Esteban v3 - the crew doesn't trust its captain anymore, but has no other choice, really....

The Captain of the Leviathan failed his crew in the second book of this series.  All the goodwill he had built up with them over the years went up in flames.  He let his personal grievance with the steamer operators get the better of him.

His simple prank turned out to be far less effective than he thought it would be.  When the steamer chased him down to punish him, his refusal to bend even under the most adverse conditions left the ship in a very bad spot. Literally, they were ice bound, with no warm weather in sight for months.

That’s where this third volume starts.  The captain has holed himself up in his office with one of his crew to devise a strategy to get to safety.  The remaining crew is above board making guesses as to what the plan might be. One by one, they shoot down the obvious ones.  I say “obvious” because even I came up with them.  This is Bonhomme doing a good job in addressing his readers’ active imaginations inside the story.  It imperils the crew more.

Along the way, Esteban shares a couple more stories from his people, involving birds and whales that can help. Throughout the series, those stories have been treated as quaint fairy tales, even when they’d be followed up with a small proof of their truth later on.

Esteban v3 the Captain in a small boat

The bulk of this book is the fight for survival, as the crew winds up in small boats to make one last attempt to find civilization.  It’s a tense, stark, and dangerous float for survival.  Almost everything that could go wrong, does. It’s a white knuckle read and a real page turner.  The elements are not in their favor, and Bonhomme’s script leaves them no easy way out.

The finale is satisfying.  It feels right without going too dark or too optimistic.  It has a nice balance to it  (And, like I said before, no cannibalism.)

Question Answered

The captain and Esteban's mother meet for the first time

Bonhomme answers the last of the big questions from the first volume here. The Captain comes clean to Esteban and tells him the story of how he met Esteban’s mother, and why she would trust her son with him.  Bonhomme doesn’t go to the obvious route.  It’s a bit more circuitous than that, but it works. It’s a heartbreaking little story of when everyone does everything right, and yet nobody is happy.

It’s the last missing piece of the story that started in volume 1, and it comes at a good time.  When it seems possible that all is lost, the Captain shares the story with Esteban.  From a storytelling perspective, it’s a great case of using the pressures of time in the plot to reveal something. The Captain doesn’t suddenly warm up to sharing his past with the kid for no reason.  He thinks he’s cleaning up the rough edges in his life before it all ends.

Where Do We Go From Here?

This volume finishes off this story and ties up all the loose ends presented in the first book.

Yet, there are two more books in the series. I don’t know what those are going to be about, so I’m excited to start a brand new story with volume 4.

Without getting into spoilers, that’s about all I can say.

 

Recommended?

Esteban v3 cover by Matthieu Bonhomme via Dupuis and Europe Comics

Yes!  Whatever happens in the final two books of the series, these three form a strong story on their own. That’s all that counts.

(This is Pipeline BD 100 review #92.)

 

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