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posted September 26, 2011
Top Shelf, softcover, 544 pages, 2011, $29.95 (US)
The main thing that comes to mind in the course of reading Top Shelf's massive, translated edition of Ludovic Debeurme's popular 2006 book is how sublimely pretty it can be. Debeurme has one of those art styles to die for: elegant, able to convey reams of information in a single line, and so easy-on-the-eyes that looking up and off the page almost always ends up a minor disappointment. His images float in space across the white canvas the page provides like so many flashes of memory, which I think is a significant part of the power behind drawing that way for this work. Just look at the image at the bottom of this post: a minimally-rendered young man looks into a reflection that holds even fewer details, and it's the difference between the two portraits that proves instructive as to character and moment. That's not easy, and there are instances equal to that one every few pages.
Debeurme executes in loving fashion a story that seems less universal than it does a tiny bit rote, like it's directly accessing your memories of some movie with lovely clothing and a vivacious troupe of young leads and crusty character actors you saw on an HBO free weekend in 1988 without ever learning its title or seeing it again. Two kids severely out of step with the world around them find sudden and life-changing intimacy within each other's company, based on a trickily negotiated acceptance and also the fact that they fit well enough together, self-damaging traits and all, to allow for an emotional rush the rest of the way into the other person's life. So of course they run away together, right into a scenario that tests that relationship and the nature of the changes in personal evaluation that came with it. That's not quite a story that matches the nuanced and relentlessly versatile, ruthlessly attractive, and at times perfectly pitched art on display; then again, few stories would.
One of the great dilemmas in processing art is deciding how you feel about a work whose apparent shortcomings are negated by occasions of virtuoso display; another one of the stickiest situations out there is what to think when a story engages with a sort of level of cliché that springs so directly from the genre in which it traffics that to separate it from those story elements might see it die of exposure. Lucille
is a difficult work in exactly both of those ways. One solution may be to offer it the kind of unconditional love for which its protagonists ache. I'm not sure that every North American comics reader will embrace this work, even those that enjoyed books like Blankets
for whom I think it may be primarily intended. Those that will hold onto Lucille
, however, are likely to keep it very, very close.