Thursday, December 28, 2006

27. L'Echangeur by Marc Vlieger

L'Echangeur is a single volume bande dessinée, much more in the format of a graphic novel as we in the west know them. I don't know if it was ever published in the more traditional BD form, or serialized. It's the story of a giant apartment complex in France that is just up the hill from a gas stop on a major autoroute. These are the projects of France, a little farther out of town than the banlieu that exploded in riots last summer, but peopled with the same population: North African immigrants and their children. The drawings are clean and open, almost dusty, reflecting their empty surroundings.

The story is about the prodigal son returning home, a favorite uncle and son who managed to break free from the constraints of race, class and poverty. All that is known about him since he left are the series of exciting postcards he sends home, from all over the world, each one relaying all kinds of adventures. His young nephew idolizes him and is totally overjoyed when he comes back again. Why he has returned home and what he has actually done is a mystery, but he is still full of life and energy and crazy stories of adventure.

The cracks first start showing when the nephew, by bragging, gets his uncle caught up in a drag race with the local drug dealers. The reader begins to see that the uncle may have exagerated his driving skills and experience. Things get even more tense when a couple of toughs from Paris show up, looking for the uncle. In a rousing scene, that shows the unity of the projects, despite the earlier menace of the racing drug dealers, the Paris toughs are set upon, beaten up and driven out of town.

As the story progresses, and the uncle's lies slowly become more apparent, L'Echangeur portrays the life and struggles of his nephews, their dreams and desires and how they both thrive and are suprressed by their environment. The comic becomes a lot more benign and touching than it initially promised. The truth of the uncle's life is almost comical when it is finally revealed. Despite the change of tone, or maybe because of it, L'Echangeur ends up a profound and moving portrayal of an underclass community.

L'Echangeur cover picture

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sounds intriguing.