Thursday, May 11, 2006

17. Vortex Tess Wood & Campbell by Stan and Vince

Vortex tome 1 pictureWritten and drawn by Stanislas Manoukian and Vincent Roucher (Stan & Vince) and coloured by Florence Breton

I picked this one up because it had a glaring, energetic cover and it appeared that at least the first 3 albums were available (an issue at the bibliothèque nationale). What a find! This is a totally over-the-top, action-packed comic, stuffed full of ideas and thoroughly entertaining.

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It begins at the height of Nazi power in WWII in a remote atlantic base, where an experiment that could change the course of the war is being carried out: a time travel machine. When it is first demonstrated, two almost superhumanly tough guys bust into the room, steal the plans and jump through the time portal, destroying everything as they leave. Super agent Campbell, who it has already been established is an ass-kicking hero of the nth degree, is called to follow the badguys and get the plans back. However, the only other person who understands how the time travel machine works is the scientist's lovely assistant Tess Wood, so she has to go as well.

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Vortex3 pictureThe 9 albums of the series follow Tess Wood and Campbell as they pursue the bad guys and the plan and get mixed up in crazier adventures and more and more convoluted time manipulations. The conceit of the series is that each chapter is divided into three albums. The first follows Tess, the second Campbell and then the third both of them together as they resolve the problems created in the first two (and usually ended up making more for themselves). It's really well done and actually quite exciting to read because they are often in different time dimensions, somehow affecting each other's stories which makes reading the second album really fun. In the hands of less skilled scenarists, it could have been quite a mess, but in Vortex it is quite cleverly constructed and very satisfying.

Vortex3 pictureMore than the intricate structure, it is the utter excess to which the authors take the heros and the world. They push time travel to some excellent limits. I'm trying to think what's not in this book. What it does include, among other things are future cities in bubbles surrounded by ecological nightmare zones, giant egyptian crocodile gods, brain-head ETs studying prehistoric earth, a dystopic devolved future where humans regress into savage apes (in a day), underground steampunk civilizations, the man who trained Sherlock Holmes and it goes on.

I loved Vortex. It was totally my kind of story. The art is blatant and colourful, with lots of good gore. It had a similar look to Mr. Monster. The authors are clearly big fans of pulp action and american style comics. They both have done gigs for Dark Horse as well. Vortex desperately needs to be translated into english and sold in 3 volumes. Why this does not happen is beyond me. Awesome stuff.

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