Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

Home > CR Reviews

Ordinary Victories: What Is Precious
posted July 16, 2008


Creator: Manu Larcenet
Publishing Information: NBM, softcover, 96 pages, July 2008, $15.95
Ordering Numbers: 1561635332 (ISBN10), 9781561635337 (ISBN13)

There's a lot to digest in the second volume of NBM's translation of Manu Larcenet's Le Combat Ordinaire, the story of a photographer named Marco as he struggles with issues of family and vocation in a series of spiraling vignettes. This book was done in the same hand-held, attractive format (collecting two albums) recent customers of the New York-based comics company might recognize from the highly appealing Lewis Trondheim volume Little Nothings. Both Trondheim and Larcenet are intelligent craftsman who bounce back and forth between a variety of genres and publishing outlets; their work has a certain pleasing, even sumptuous quality (although not classically so) above and beyond the topics they broach. Larcenet offers up a rock solid, standard approach to the European comics page and a bigfoot style of character design sprinkled with appealing idiosyncrasies that for the most part serve theme. Colors suggest moods. Exaggerations in facial features hint at character quirks and reinforce individual personalities.

Larcenet's greatest skill on display here may lie in the measured pacing. We see Marco struggle with aspects of the initial question over whether or not to have a child with Emily, but then we're later dropped into the now-expanded family and are forced to piece together how Marco learned to embrace the pregnancy. In making these kinds of choices, Larcenet underscores what seems to be his general observation that one doesn't get always get what one desires out of life, and that accepting what one has according to one's nature to process those things is at least one way to proceed. The way Larcenet stresses these elements through these kind of structural progressions, the way the cartoonist reinforces other themes like displacement and death and acceptance by running concurrent plot points that connect through a single issue, has a much greater impact than the times where a character gives a speech or makes an almost too-poignant observation. I can see where some readers would be charmed, while others might look on the worldview expressed here with massive amounts of distrust. If only for the assured way in which the cartoonist refuses to brood over any one element in his protagonist's life, I want Larcenet to be more right about life than he is wrong.