Tuesday, September 05, 2006

19. Aquablue by Cailleteau et Vatine

Aquablue cover pictureWritten by Thierry Cailleteau drawn by Olivier Vatine

French comics are sold in albums. If you've seen a Tintin or an Asterix, you know what I mean. Hard-covered, large format and fairly expensive. They tend to have 64 pages. If a series does well, it is usually collected into what is called an intégrale. These can be from 3-6 albums. I try to look for those because there is a limit to how many BDs you are allowed out at a time (10 at the local branch, but only 3 at the Bibliotheque Nationale) so you get way more reading for your borrow and are ensured to read the whole series (or cycle, as a complete story within a given character line is called).

I explain this to give you some sense of how I am picking out comics. I have found some authors that I like and I have slowly gotten some recommendations, from people and reading online reviews. But there is just so much material out there (I weep for joy) that sometimes you just have to go for a shotgun approach. So I will just grab any intégrales I see (they are easy to spot by their thicker spine) and check if the art and story interests me.

The cover of Aquablue looked interesting, but I didn't groove immediately on the art. It has that slightly cartoony '70s feel and a bit more than usual of the perfect bodies (check out the blue babe). But I was feeling like some real sci-fi after all the contemporary comics I'd been reading, so I picked it up.

It turned out to be a good find and I'm glad to know there are two more cycles to come after this one. It's a very cool concept, with a strong environmental and anti-colonialist theme. It's about a planet that is almost entirely covered in water. There is one small continent and several small islands. The people are peaceful and highly adapted to the water, though they are land-living. An earth-based company discovers that the ocean's energy can be tapped and sent back to the greedy, consumerist home planet.

The lynchpin is a human, a child whose rescue shuttle crashed on Aquablue and raised by the natives. He looks like a surfer and, though not as genetically comfortable in the water as his adopted people, he is still a marine ass-kicker. He becomes a cause célèbre on earth. There is a lot more going on, including a military contingency that is sent at first to protect earth's corporate interests but then starts to question its role, space pirates, mysterious and enormous sea creatures and the deserted remains of an underwater civilization. It all comes together into an exciting and moving story. Again, the french don't pull their punches. Their is some brutal stuff in Aquablue as the natives are rounded up into slave teams and experimented on by a psychotic chemist towards eradicating the entire race.

Another enjoyable read.


Unknown said...

Sounds complicated and fantastical. Is it more sci-fi or still an adventure tale but with blue people?

OlmanFeelyus said...

Hmm, good question. It definitely has some pretty cool sci-fi elements and deals with them. I didn't mention them in the review, but there is a lot of stuff about how earth has expanded off the planet, using other planets for resources and energy. There is cool mecha technology and many scenes back on earth where you get a sense of a decadent, class-stratified and media-saturated society. There is also some space warfare, so I'd say yeah, it's pretty sci-fi.