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Ariol: Thunder Horse
posted July 25, 2013

imageCreators: Emmanuel Guibert, Marc Boutavant
Publishing Information: Papercutz, softcover, full-color, 128 pages, 2013, $12.99.
Ordering Numbers: 9781597074124 (ISBN13)

I quite enjoyed this small volume of kids stories translated into English via NBM's Papercutz line. Ariols is a small donkey who goes to a very early single-digit level of grade school class. He has a best friend, a pig. His parents gently support and humor him. He has a crush on the girl sitting in front of him. He has a rival. He likes a superhero comic, Thunder Horse, which provides the name for this volume and is at the center of at least two full stories. The stories are almost ruthlessly ordinary: not only doesn't Ariol change, but almost nothing happens to the little guy.

This really works as comics, though. The kid characters have fully-realized psychologies without become little adults: they take their lives and their concerns very seriously, and they are very present, but there is little of nuance to their strategies for getting from A to B. There is something deeply hilarious about how the kids encounter subtle realities of life for the first time but seem resigned to them. They feel phenomenally grounded, but their lives are so limited in focus it doesn't feel like a cheat. The stories wring a lot of mileage out of the exasperation felt by adults that try to plug into the lives of such children, or that seem bruised by their proximity. About the only thing I'd wonder after is how effectively a lot of these stories together convey something greater than the sum of its parts. It's sort of like eating a meal of trivet-tray appetizers. When the flavors are so perfectly apportioned, it's hard to care.