It’s like one of those movies where ornery old men are cute and adventurous… Picture Tommy Lee Jones and Clint Eastwood making a movie. Maybe throw Morgan Freeman in, too. (Oh, wait, that movie’s kinda already coming out…)
Cranky Old Credits
Artist: Paul Cauuet
Colorist: Paul Cauuet
Lettering: Calix Ltd.
Translator: Montana Kane
Published by: Dargaud/Europe Comics
Number of Pages: 57
Original Publication: 2014
I walked into the book blindly. Didn’t even read the book description. I didn’t want to know anything, which possibly explains the nagging feeling I had throughout the book. It felt like we had three main characters, but maybe a fourth would join them? And is that granddaughter a one-off character for this first book, or a cornerstone for future adventures?
Let’s look at the main characters and work it out: We start with Pierrot, who’s living in what looks like a dumpy attic, covered in signs and random bric-a-brac. He’s bald on top, with white hair along the sides. His pants are pulled up just under his chest, his limbs are skinny, and his thick black-rimmed glasses help him remain functional. He has a bit of a hunch. He’s suiting up to attend a funeral, but first must pick up his friend, Milsey, who is of the same generation.
Milsey lives in a rest home and needs help getting out of his chair. I mention this just so I have a good excuse to include the panels you see above.
Finally, there’s Antoine, who looks a little like Pierrot, except a little shorter, heavier, and with a more sinister resting face. He’s a retired union activist, we quickly learn, and that will inform a lot of what the series is about as it goes on.
There are your main three. Judging by the cover and how the book opens, it seems safe to say we’ve met our main cast. Wilfrid Lupino’s script gets to them in short order, thankfully. He introduces them one at a time, but in reference to each other. It’s a good way to keep from confusing the readers.
The Fourth Wheel
The funeral is for Antoine’s wife, Lucette. Also in attendance is his pregnant single granddaughter, Sophie, who we learned earlier in the book likes puppets and drives a mini-van labeled “Wolf in Undies.” That’s the name of her traveling puppet show, but also a meta reference to another popular comic, also published by Dargaud. (It’s not available in English at the time of this writing.)
When a secret is spilled after the funeral, it’s a race to Italy to stop one of the three from doing something he might regret in revenge. The other two take Sophie with them, to help them with the driving. Because, you know, they’re old.
So it feels like Sophie will be the fourth wheel, and a good sounding board to keep the three old guys honest. She’s also spunky and self-sufficient in her own right. Lupino makes her a great parallel to the three titular old geezers in the series, just from a different stage in life.
Flashbacks and Causes
Along the way, we get flashbacks and memories of union revolts back in the 1960s, and we learn more about how these three men initially got connected. Basically, it all boils down to 60s politics, union boosting, and a fair bit of activist behavior.
They have lost none of their flair for protest despite their advanced years. They want to fight society, but they also fight amongst themselves a fair bit of the time. Is the next generation as good at fighting for things as theirs was?
For a series that’s played so much for laughs, there’s a lot going on here with people in their end years wondering about their legacy, and wondering if any of it meant anything, or changed anything. As grumpy and as hopeless as they may sound about it, they can’t help but carry on. Sometimes, it’s just for the sheer fun of it.
Thankfully, this is all good for some laughs…
The Problem with On-Going Series
Some of you in the comments — Hi, JC! — do not like series where a story carries across multiple albums. It gets back to the same “decompression” topic that was popular in North American superhero comics 15 years ago in the wake of manga’s popularity and the rise of the six issues trade paperback format’s dominance.
When I was done reading this book, it dawned on me that this is just the kick-off point for the series. The plot points dropped on the final pages give the series a mechanism by which it can continue, and a format to run with.
This volume, though, is at best the pilot episode. It’s the introduction to all the characters, and then one plot point that brings them all together in a funny way. Plot wise, it’s slow to unfold. It does, however, give you the chance to learn more about these characters and see them in action.
Is this first album a satisfying story on its own? I’m not so sure. It doesn’t feel too adventurous. There are some stakes at play here, but by the time they come to play, the whole tone of the book is well enough established that you’re not going to be too worried by the stakes. You know that, somehow, they will resolve. Likely, it’ll be in a humorous manner.
If you’re looking for the big bombastic showdown with this volume, you’re going to be disappointed. This is not the traditional structure where the good guy confronts the bad guy and the world explodes around them as they fight. I like that part of it, even it does mean the story flattens out a bit where you’d expect it to spike.
The story does gets resolved, and it is in a surprising way, which keeps the book from being disappointing. These characters are a bit too crazy to figure things out in a “normal” way…
But I still had an incomplete feeling at the end of the book. We get to know the characters a little bit, but there’s not much done with that. We went through some paces with them, and then it ends.
The Art of Paul Cauuet
Cauuet’s art is an intriguing blend of photorealistic backgrounds paired with people drawing that can be extremely cartoony, yet realistic at the same time. He draws unique silhouettes in all his characters, but the old geezers of the book get special treatment. They vary from the “norm” significantly. They have large jowls or big noses, or insanely big ears. They walk slightly hunched over. Their wrinkles come in piles, one level overlapping the next.
While everything is drawn to look more realistic/natural, you can see in the faces and the eyes, in particular, where Cauuet chooses to distort things for maximum impact. He can draw a cartoony face to get to an emotion that a proper anatomical study would never dig up.
Cauuet’s art is also comfortable at higher and lower angles. While he does draw plenty of eye-level panels, there is a significantly higher-than-usual number of panels drawn looking down on the characters, or (less often, but still there) looking up from something closer to a worm’s eye view.
There’s something in Cauuet’s art in this book that beautifully blends a naturalistic style with a slightly skewed cartoonist’s perspective. Even cars have a little extra style drawn into them. Establishing shots of town look right, but you get the feeling some of the perspective lines are off by just a bit to add a little life to those static buildings. It’s a very subtle thing, but I feel it when I read the book.
It’s similar, really, to the way the people look normal except for those one or two exaggerated features that add life to them.
The Serious Side
Along the way, there’s a lot of insight into the regret these characters have in their sunset years. They’re very active and feisty people, but they keep running up against those in their generation who are failing or are closer to the end than they are.
One of the big moments in the book between the three old men and the granddaughter is when she explains how it is that she can be just as cynical and grumpy about people as they are.
It shocks them out of their “acts” for a moment. Her honesty and since cynicism surprises them. Partially, I’m sure it’s just because she hasn’t expressed those feelings to them before. Some of it, though, I also think has to do with the old geezers not realizing that there’s a lot they have in common with “the kids these days.” They were like her when they were younger. They forget that.
OK, I’ll cheat this one a bit and admit I’ve already read volume 2. Because of that, I’d say this book is worth reading.
I think the second one is where we truly meet the characters and what they’re capable of. We establish the — well, just wait for it. If you feel a little lost in this book because you’re not quite sure what story formula it’s going to hew to, just hang in there. The second book will help you .
(This is Pipeline BD 100 review #106.)
More Old Geezers Reviews
- Volume 2: “Bonny and Pierrot”
- Volume 3: “The One Who Got Away”
- Volume 4: “The Magician”
- Volume 5: “Stark Raving Bonkers”