The Quest for the Time Bird by Serge le Tendre, Regis Loisel and Ivanka Hahnenberger (translator)
|The Quest for the Time Bird by Serge le Tendre, Regis Loisel and Ivanka Hahnenberger (translator)|
|Category: Graphic Novels|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A definitive edition for this classic fantasy comic from France – but one that barely stands as a classic of any form where quality is concerned.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 232||Date: December 2015|
|Publisher: Titan Comics|
|External links: Author's website|
In order to defeat a vengeful god, who is within days of getting out of his prison – a sacred conch shell – several things must happen. First, the conch must be united with the witch powerful enough to sustain the incantation keeping him locked up. Then she must use her helpers to endure great danger and find the information she seeks in the most perilous of places for knowledge of the ultimate part of the puzzle – the Time Bird. All this calls for heroes, but in the world of fantasy anyone can call themselves a hero – from the witch's own buxom daughter, Pelisse, to an old warrior called Bragon that the girl is forced to unite with and fight alongside.
This turns out to have been a popular BD in France in the early 1980s, and this collection is of the core of it – all four books of the original cycle, which proved successful enough to justify not only a computer game version, but four separate prequels that seem to be still dripping out over the interim decades. It's been in English before, but my guess is it's a new translation – certainly the old edition renamed the heroine, for little real purpose. A bonus feature here is a reprint of an even older, black and white section, proving these ideas stretch even further back in time.
And it shows. The whole book has a dated look and feel – I'm not alone in seeing a sort of Asterix touch to the stolid page layouts, the formulation artwork and the wordy world-building. It is also the most clunky of fantasy works – fight these for this, go to that place of peril, fight those for that, all the while having baddies on your tail… I know yawning is contagious but I can hear yours from where I sit now. Bizarre companions pop in and out of proceedings, such as a man in disguise to the heroes but not to us who can tell who it is a mile off, and the world's most annoying impish character, who just makes you want to flick ahead whenever he turns up.
More or less all that is to the book's credit is down to the artwork. There is some fine character design, bringing to mind something as bizarre as Pan's Labyrinth in going just far enough to make humanoid creatures look completely alien and unsettling without having them too extremely different. The scope of the book – and it's a big one, lengthy and large format at the same time – allows for all manner of different locations, sylvan, desert, snowscape, rainy evenings – and all have their mood captured most competently in the palette and style. But even so, too many of the characters are just unappealing visually – the sole exception, of course, being the impractically-dressed Pelisse.
Which brings me on to the 'suggested for mature readers' tag on the rear cover. This is piffle in my mind, and geared to alert the reader to one androgynous character who – shock, horror! – has nipples on show. The book is knowing about Pelisse's being curvaceous, but there's nothing in the sexuality, or the fantasy violence, to make this unsuitable for the young. Except for the main issue to be had with it – the fact that it's so stolid, so staid, and probably nothing the reader of any age won't have seen before and better.
I must still thank the publishers for my review copy.
Mouse Guard - the Black Axe by David Petersen is good enough to show anyone how this kind of thing is done.
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You can read more book reviews or buy The Quest for the Time Bird by Serge le Tendre, Regis Loisel and Ivanka Hahnenberger (translator) at Amazon.com.
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