12 January 2011

Recommendation: Frances vol. 2

Title: Frances vol. 2
By: Joanna Hellgren
Language: Swedish (French)
128 pages, b&w, soft cover
Publisher: Galago, 2010
ISBN: 978-917037559-0

Joanna Hellgren appeared on the the Swedish comics scene just a couple of years ago, seemingly out of nowhere, and from the very beginning a surprisingly deft storyteller. Her first graphic novel, Mon frère nocturne (My Night brother) was immediately nominated as one of the best graphic novels in France that year, and her next book Frances vol. 1 has been hailed unanimously by the critics. It even garnered her the Urhunden award for best Swedish graphic novel 2009. And yes, Hellgren is Swedish, but made her début and releases her books first in France, a true representative of the fact that the world is becoming more and more international and that Swedish comics are reaching outside of our national borders.

The second volume of Frances is yet another show of strength from Hellgren, taking the story of the girl Frances who was left in the care of her aunt in the first volume, to new heights. Volume two is a story about stories; it’s about the story of Frances young parents who get pregnant at a very young age and react very differently to this news; it is the story of a novel that the female lover of Frances' aunt has published, which seems to resemble the story of Frances' parents a lot; and lastly it is the story that Frances herself tells to make sense of her strange world. All of this is interwoven in a heavily textured storyline, which jumps freely in time and really asks quite a lot form the reader.

It is a rewarding read, though. Hellgren does not resort to easily recognizable characters and predictable plot-lines but actually tells a story that feels both fresh and convincing. How often does that happen in a comic… Add to this the lush, free-flowing style of drawing that Hellgren employs, with everything drawn in pencil, a method which by not using the standard method of inking really opens up to a much more natural feel to all the characters. Well, as you might have been able to tell by now, I’m smitten and I can’t wait till volume three!
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