Sunday, November 04, 2018

36. Red Ketchup Intégrale Volume 2

This is a collection of books 4, 5 and 6 of the Red Ketchup series.  The first three books are some of my all-time favourite comics, a beautiful combination of Hergè-like art and Wonder Warthog style anarchy and chaos.  Red Ketchup is an unkillable psychotic FBI agent, existing solely on handfuls of pharmaceuticals, driven by an 80's American distilled Rambo fascism.  He is also not bright at all and ends up achieving his mission through sheer destruction and the wild coincidences and machinations of the characters swirling around him. His boss at the FBI is constantly trying to take him out of circulation which leads to him causing greater destruction.  It's all a hilarious critique of American exceptionalism and the fantasy of violent victory over bad guys that dominates American comics.  Réal Godbout and Pierre Fournier are highly recognized in the BD field for this and their other great series Michel Risque (where Red Ketchup first appeared as a side character).  The books are also physically beautiful published by La Pasteque, such that I made an exception to my usually going to the library and actually started buying them.  They are translated into english and you should get them.

I sat on this Intégrale for quite a while because I wanted to savour it.  Ironically, when I did finally start reading this one, I got bogged down and abandoned it.  Book 4 Red Ketchup s'est échappé!  (Red Ketchup Got Away!) is actually very talky and starts out with tons of dialogue.  Ketchup who has been sent up to space by his bosses decides he has finally had enough.  He returns to earth (ignoring the burning up as he goes through the atmosphere), resigns in a huff and moves to LA to open up his own private detective agency.  This one really lacks the chaos of the preceding three volumes and I found myself worried that Godbout and Fournier had lost their way as perhaps there is only so much you can do with the concept.  Particularly frustrating is that Ketchup is constantly constrained throughout the book while surrounded by the kind of sleazeballs whom he usually destroys.  Likewise, while much of this takes place in the Hollywood film milieu, the satire is applied rather lightly.  There are the characteristically funny touches along the way, especially in the advertising for American products you can see in the background.

The second volume, Le couteau aztèque (The Aztec Knife), gets interesting again, though this time it is a trippy time travel adventure.  Red Ketchup's sister and brujo Juan Two-Tree chase Red through history (and he chases himself through his own abusive past) as he inserts himself into various conqueror's and completely rewrites the past.

The third book, L'oiseau aux sept surfaces (The Seven-Surfaced Bird) brings Red Ketchup fully back to form.  I burst out loud laughing several times so much that my daughter kept asking me what was so funny.  The story here is an hommage to manga and kaiju, as Red Ketchup is sent by his bosses on a false investigation of the disappearing turkey population ("if the turkey disappears, what will happen to democracy!?") to get him out of the way.  After a hilarious investigation in supermarkets, Turkey farms, processing plants and finally a country fair where he slaps a turkey (this is what cracked me up first), Ketchup goes to Japan where it turns out his old enemy Docteur Künt is developing a gigantism gene. Chaos ensues.  This one was fucking awesome.

Now I have 3 more volumes left. The intégrale hasn't come out yet and I am debating whether to get them individually or just wait.  Either way, I am going to savour again.

I mean look at that.

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