A Preamble That’s Bigger Than the Review
We don’t fantasize over The Old West like we once did in this country. The time of “Cowboys and Indians” is over now, replaced with “White-Aggressor-With-Evil-Guns and Native Americans” or some such.
That’s why it’s so interesting to me to read a series like “Yakari,” which feels like something straight out of the 1950s. It’s all about looking out at the Great Plains and seeing how the Native Americans lived off the land some time ago. It’s a story of nature, with the bulk of it about the lives of buffaloes and wolves and horses.
This is a “Mark Trail” comic strip on larger paper.
On the other hand, it reminds me a bit of something like “The Lion King.” Yakari talks to the animals, and they show him how they live their lives. They practically explain the Circle of Life here. The tribe leaders go to great pains early in the book to show how they use the entire animal, how they appreciate the animal, and how they work hard to make do with as few of them as possible. The circle of life must continue.
On a completely meta level, I find it fascinating how many French-published books are set in the American West of 150 years ago or more.
In a time where “representation” is so touchy a topic, here’s a couple of French guys telling stories of a young Sioux having adventures, talking to the animals, and living in harmony with nature. It feels like it could be a minefield. I think they pulled it off, but someone else will have to judge…
I looked up the creators of the series, Derib and Job. The are both actually Swiss. Job was born in 1927, Derib in 1944. That explains it. They grew up at a time when this kind of material would have been more commonplace and exciting to a younger readership.
This series started in the early 1970s, and will continue past today. After Job died last year, they named a new writer who will continue the series.
But who is this book for?
The series is obviously aimed at a younger audience. The point of view character is a cute kid who learns all sorts of stuff as he jumps around. And what kid wouldn’t want to talk to animals?
The storytelling is relatively simple, but clear. Panels and even the lettering are all extra large. This isn’t a BD album where they try to compensate for the larger page size by adding a tier of panels and packing everything onto every square inch of paper.
There’s a nice liveliness to the images, and the words rarely weighed down the art. A kid won’t shy away from this book for looking like too much work. The storytelling is clear and the dialogue explains enough to make it easy to follow.
There is real danger in the book, especially from the other animals preying on the cute cuddly ones you’ll first fall in love with. So it’s not all magic and rainbows and cutesy stuff. There is actual drama in this book.
But it still has a happy ending, so all is well.
Unless you have a soft spot for westerns or this era, if you’re an adult you might not find the book terribly engaging. It’s good enough and it’s done well, but it’s not for you.
If you have a younger child or niece/nephew type (7 – 10 years old, maybe) hanging around, this might be a nice way to introduce them to some western type comics. If they like it, there’s a lot more in the series you can throw at them.
(This is Pipeline BD 100 review #67.)