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La Venenuese aux deux eperons, Stephane Blanquet
posted May 10, 2007
 

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By Bart Beaty

Wordless comics contain certain limitations, and pose problems for the inattentive cartoonist. Character definition, setting, complex action and motivation are all challenged by the decision to forego the written word, and works that attempt to rise beyond the most basic levels risk overwhelming readers at every turn, from simple panel transitions to the development of truly reflexive narratives. Most cartoonists, of course, opt not to take these risks. And then there's Stephane Blanquet.

Blanquet, one of the most daring and exciting of all French cartoonists, rolls the dice and risks it all in La Venenuese aux deux eperons (Cornelius, 2006), a lengthy wordless comic that forsakes easy comprehension by seeking to push the author's work to a new level of difficulty. Blanquet, who has been publishing comics since he was a teenager, has, in his thirties, emerged as one of the truly outstanding cartoonists of the contemporary underground. His vision is dark, disturbing, creepy, and entirely his own, and it is presented with a style that is both elegant and, at times, alarming.

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La Venenuese aux deux eperons, like so much of Blanquet's recent work, is produced in his silhouette style. Like a comic book Kara Walker, an artist whose themes often overlap with those of Blanquet, he works here exclusively in sharply contrasting blacks and whites, with, it often seems, much more emphasis on the darkness than the light. Combined with black gutters, Blanquet's pages seem lonely and alienating. Close up drawings of objects become a challenge to decipher, demanding a certain alertness on the part of the reader. Couple this with a narrative that is highly elliptical and fantastic, and the book's darkness can be difficult to navigate.

The book has a sort of loping narrative flow rather than a strong story. It is a children's tale filled with nightmarish figures, and one that should never been shown to kids. The product of a ferociously powerful imagination, La Venenuese aux deux eperons deals with the sexual awakening of a young girl, the slaughter of pigs, the hunting of humans, sexual torture and other unpleasantries. It is, to say the least, a twisted melange of images and ideas, and one that will sit uneasily with a large number of readers.

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But those with an interest in Blanquet's nightmarish visions, will be richly rewarded. This book is another significant leap forward for the artist. The imagery is hauntingly evocative and deeply affecting. The presentation of the book itself is outstanding (par for the course for Cornelius). Readers who can stomach the sadistic themes will marvel at this book, but the easily shocked might want to look away. A complex and often subtle investigation of the intersection of childish fantasy and sexuality, La Venenuese aux deux eperons is the book that I hoped Lost Girls was going to be.

*****

La Venenuese aux deux epreons, Stephane Blanquet, Cornelius, 2006

*****

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