Artist: Federico Bertolucci
Published by: Ankara Editions/Magnetic Press
Number of Pages: 88
Original Publication: 2011
A cute cuddly fox. And a polar bear fighting off a whale. I love comics!
A Fox Fleeing for Life
From a story structure point of view, Frederic Brremaud writes an ensemble piece. The fox is at the center, but the story veers off into side stories often. We see a polar bear floating in on an iceberg fighting for his life. Underwater, whales of different types (killer versus humpback, I think) come into conflict. We get seals and a fox and muskoxen doing their thing.
I did some research: polar bears and muskoxen are both Arctic animals, so the comic makes sense and holds up to this narrative’s location.
Just look at Federico Bertolucci’s art on this muskox. It looks correct for the animal, and has its own emotion. Reminds me a lot of the work of former Disney animator Aaron Blaise’s work.
The first third of the book is the introduction to most of these animals. We pass by the muskoxen butting heads and the fox hunting for smaller creatures for food. We see birds with prey in their claws, and then diving into the ocean for fish. That leads us to the dolphins and whales.
It’s a snapshot of nature. It’s not always pretty. There’s a lot of animal fighting and Circle of Life stuff going on with this book. The warning on the back cover says “This book contains depictions of violence and survival within nature.”
It’s still suitable for “All Ages”, but be sure they’ve all seen a National Geographic special or two first. Or, at least, “The Lion King.”
All Hell Breaks Loose
The drama in the book arrives when the island blows up. The mountain erupts into a volcano. Streams of lava flow down towards the ocean. Fissures rip the ground apart. Everyone is running for their life. The water creatures swim for their lives, too, dodging burning boulders hurled at them.
We mostly follow the fox, wondering which way it’s going to go next. At times, the fox is dodging natural predators. Then, the fox runs against the direction the other animals are heading. It’s just all over the place, hoping to get somewhere safe. You’re rooting for the fox, if for no other reason than the book is named after it.
Trust me, that pays off.
The Art of Silent Storytelling
The thing about silent stories is that they often take longer to read. You wouldn’t think that. There are, after all no words on the page. What’s there to read?
There’s probably a psychological term for this, but you need to pay greater attention to the art to understand the story when the crutch of word balloons isn’t there. It helps, then, when the artwork is worth looking at.
Bertolucci’s art is beautiful, so there’s no problem there. He combines a painted style with realistic animals and a slightly cartoony influence that gives his animals a real bounce and life. The fox moves naturally, but you can feel it bouncing around, turning on a dime, and moving naturally in three dimensional space. It works with the environment, which is the biggest supporting character his this book. The fox may have the greatest life and do the most in the story, but this book also features the island, itself, falling apart at the seams.
You will be paying attention to every square inch of every page of this book. It’s important, then, that the panels don’t cheat. Bertolucci cuts no corners in this book. Every panel has backgrounds. Every pair of panels pushes the storytelling forward, if only in small ways. The opening page cuts from a wide shot of the island into a tighter shot of leaves dancing through the air on the wind as they fall to the open field with the muskoxen walking towards each other. In each, the trees are changing colors into golden and red colors. This is the fall season, and the air is getting colder and windier. It’s an establishing shot in three panels, going from super-wide to wide with one close-up in-between to help add color and texture to the scene.
He’s great with the camera movements in the book. It feels very cinematic, including some obvious camera placement techniques, like pushing, pulling, and panning with the animals. Whether that influence is purposeful for coincidental, I don’t know. It works well on the page, though.
The Process of Painting the Book
Bertolucci’s art is painted. It’s definitely digital, done with some fancy brushes, though a lot of the pencils still show through. It’s a great look.
In fact, Bertolucci posted a video of himself drawing a page from start to finish. In this case, he does several drawings with pencil on paper, then brings those in to Photoshop to assemble the pages and finish them off with the colors. This is one of the most impressive process videos I’ve ever seen on YouTube:
The hardcover presentation is a great value for the $17.99 price tag. The covers have rounded corners, though the pages still have sharper 90 degree corners. The covers just hang out over the pages enough to pull that off. I like that.
There’s a few pages of sketchbook material at the end. I’d love to see what a script looks like or some more of Bertolucci’s process work.
The pages are nice and heavy with only a slight sheen to them. You’ll get some light reflected, but it’s easy enough to avoid. The good news is that the colors don’t leak through the page. For a book that’s this aggressive with its coloring, that’s a key thing to have.
The final image is a little softer on paper than it is in digital. All the images in this review besides the cover and the one in this section come from the digital version. The printed version comes out softer, but that’s unavoidable with paper versus digital. It’s not Magnetic’s fault. It’s the nature of the beast. The paper edition still looks great and you wouldn’t know the softness unless you did a direct comparison, yourself.
The other three books in the series are designed, of course, to fit together with this one. None have volume numbers on their spines. Each book is completely separate. There’s no continuity. There’s no reason to have volume numbers. The lead animal’s species is as good a title as anything. The other three books in the series feature a dinosaur, a lion, and a tiger. I do plan on getting them all eventually.
But, Wait! There’s More Animals from Brremaud and Bertolucci
The pair also did “Little Tails,” four books in an educational series that’s only available on Comixology at the link in the beginning of this sentence.
The series stars a squirrel and a puppy venturing out into the world. Each book explores a different environment, like the jungle and the forest. Bertolucci mixes his painted imagery along with a more cartoony pen and ink for the lead characters. All of the animation style I saw in his painted work in “Love” shows up brilliantly with his pen and ink work on “Little Tails.”
Bonus: It’s adorably cute. Each book is 32 pages for $3.99, These are books meant for kids, and are also available in English thanks to Magnetic Press.
Yup. It’s a surprising little book in a few ways, but still 50 pages of beautiful animal artwork. And, as a dog kind of guy, I liked the choice of a fox as the lead. The fox looks just like a dog, only with slightly pointer ears than my dog.
I’ll definitely be reading the rest of the books after this one.
(This is Pipeline BD 100 review #103.)
Buy It Now
The books are no longer available on Izneo. Digitally, you can only get them on Comixology.
You can pick up the whole series at this link.