Man finds something amazing. It changes him. He wants to tell the world all about how this will change everything.
Everyone tells him to get over it.
Then his car jumps off a disappearing bridge and he’s on another world.
So maybe he had a point, after all?
Titles in Chaos
WordPress is fighting me with getting this credit section done.
So, for now, let’s just credit the book to Mathieu Lauffray and I’ll fill in the rest later.
Part One of Four
One of the selling points to the very format of albums in the Franco-Belgian tradition is that each book tells an story. Even where books are part of a longer series’ storyline, each book is a “satisfying chunk,” as Heidi MacDonald likes to say.
This is not one of those books. This is the first book in a four book storyline. In fact, it’s broken into two stories right across the middle of the scene which is likely the inflection point of the story.
And while there’s a beautiful double page spread that sort of functions as a cliffhanger, it didn’t exactly wow me from the story side of things. The book just happens to end there.
It’s a bit frustrating in that way. However, I knew going in that this was more of a novel broken into bite-sized pieces and less of a series of short stories. I knew I needed to take the long-term view of the series.
To that end, there is enough here to keep me going. Most of it is Mathieu Lauffray’s art, but that’s all I need for now.
It’s not that the story, which is credited to both Lauffray and Xavier Dorison, is bad. It’s just not my cup of tea. I’m not a fan of random magical demon villains and inexplicable dream sequences.
It’s a series of bullet points that should send me running from the book.
But, then, Lauffray is drawing it. That brings me right back in.
Who is Mathieu Lauffray?
Regular PipelineComics.com readers may remember him from two earlier reviews:
“Long John Silver” is one of the best, most entertaining, and most literary bandes dessinees books that I’ve ever read. I did it a great disservice by only ever reviewing the first book. I was reading it on vacation and the timing didn’t work out to do a more exhaustive review. It’s a great four-parter and comes highly recommended.
The other book he did was the super fun Valerian one shot, “Shingouzlooz, Inc.” It’s a beautiful presentation of art, and so many of things I loved about Lauffray’s art in this book was also present in that one. “Shingouzlooz” is a bright and shiny book, where “Long John Silver” is a gritty and grimy book.
In other words, Lauffray has range. Anything he does is worth looking at. “The Book of Chaos” leans naturally towards the darker, particularly as it takes place in a world where demons reign, humans have been turned into monsters, and the world is in ruins.
It’s the far other side of the artistic spectrum from the Valerian work, but this first volume is just as good.
The thing he really has going for him in this book is a sense of scale. He pulls every artistic trick in the book to show the scale of any given scene.
When Jack sets sight on his “find” in the Himalayas, it’s something that dwarfs him. Lauffray does the job well in pulling the camera way back, minifying Jack and surrounding him with white space to both isolate and highlight him. In the background, the tall architecture only gains in size from its play off of Jack in the foreground.
There are a lot more examples of this throughout the book, notably in New York City. That’s a good place to show epic scale, anyway. Lauffray sells it hard and sells it well.
What Is The Story?
It’s about Jack Stanton, a cocky archaeologist who made a great discovery in the remote mountain landscape. People warned him against promoting and capitalizing on this discovery, but Jack wanted to be loved and his work rewarded. He wrote a book and is about to star his book tour. He should be on top of the world, but his self-centeredness might prove his undoing.
And then there’s the crazy guy who wants to kill him before he divulges too many secrets.
Not surprisingly, given the set-up of the book, that crazy guy isn’t so crazy.
That’s when Jack is transported to a nightmarish hellscape version of reality, alone on a different version of his world. It’s a savage and unknown world, and he has to fight for survival whlie trying to find a way back.
And then the book ends.
It feels like there’s one mystery too many here. I’m as lost as the lead character. I need something to hold onto. I need a bigger picture to fight for, and Lauffray isn’t giving me that this early in the book. I barely know where he is, and I don’t know what he’s looking for, and he’s clueless as to his mission past survival.
It’s clearly the start of the story. The first half, in particular, is a lot of set-up for the rest of the series. We’re introduced to a lot of people and Lauffray spends most of his time turning Jack into the protagonist who it’s almost hard to root for. It’s not that you want him to die alone and unmourned on some other world in some other time. It’s just that he’s not terribly sympathetic, even in his home life.
That helps set up a redemption arc for him in the next three books, I’m sure, but it’s a miserable place to start. There needs to be some kernel to the character that makes you want to root for him, even if it’s covered in a series of bad decisions that make him look like a horrible person at first.
For Lauffray’s art, alone, the book is worth a chance. If you’re into this kind of material, I’d say give it a chance.
If you’re more on my side of things when it comes to this kind of material, get it on sale or wait to hear if I like the rest of the books first. There are a couple of uphill climbs the series will need to conquer before I can recommend it….
— 2019.017 —
Buy It Now
If you’re so inclined to give this one a shot, I have good news: It’s also available in print! It’s one oversized (9.4″ x 12.5″) hardcover collected edition. (If Cinebook is reading: I’d buy a collected edition of “Long John Silver” in this format in a heartbeat!)
If your iPad isn’t 12.9″, then this is your best chance to read the book in English in its intended size. It’s available on Amazon, of course:
Digitally, it’s available as four books from the usual suspects, our friends at Izneo and comiXology. If you’re reading this in April 2019, I have even better news for you: It’s on sale for half price this month at Izneo!