23 December 2009

Review: Nestor Burma 1-4

It's the day before Christmas and all's well. I've had a quiet day, mostly reading and rediscovering a really good comic, due to its release in Denmark.

Faraos Cigarer (named after the Tintin album Les Cigares du Pharaon) is a very professional comics speciality shop in Denmark and they have for several years now extended their scope of business by also publishing comics. The owners are really into the classical French-Belgian albums, and therefore have published both classics and new comics in this format.

The ones which have interested me the most are the classics, often because despite their status as classics in the French comics culture, they have not yet been published in a language which I can read fluently (my French is self taught and to be honest, mostly a hindrance when reading...). The two main creators in this category is Hugo Pratt and Jacques Tardi. I'm a big fan of both, so this has been a very welcome addition.

Their latest addition to the oeuvre of Tardi is the four-volume series of books with versions of the famous French detective novels with Nestor Burma, written by Leo Malet. Some of these have been published in Swedish, Danish and/or English (all languages I read and understand), but never all of them - as far as I know, anyway.

The stories in these books can be a bit too "wordy" for my taste, as they contain intricate murder stories which need to be explained, and are thus sometimes a slow read. This could have been a problem, had they been illustrated by a lesser talent than Tardi. He has himself stated that he views Malet's stories as an excuse to be allowed to draw the streets of Paris, which he does beautifully. The comics are also full of his characteristic caricatured but still realistic characters - each and every one with very specific features. No look-alikes à la manga here, which is a good thing as there are a lot of people to keep track of.

The stores all take place in the 1940s and the 1950s, giving Malet and Tardi the possibility to also tell the reader a lot about what it was like in France at that time. This is especially interesting in the first volume, which is set during the occupation of France during WWII.

All in all, these books are very enjoyable in an old-school kind of way, and an example of the fact that it takes a true artist to transform a successful story from one media to another, without losing the soul of the work in question.

The Danish editions are in beautiful hardcovers, comes with fore- and afterwords - explaining historical facts etc., and there's also a luxurious box to hold all four volumes. Faraos Cigarer is very obviously a publisher that loves books, and I'm thankful for their effort in making these comics available to a Scandinavian audience.
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