Manuele Fior’s 5,000 KM PER SECOND is a literary work of sequential art. It’s a thoughtfully composed, decades-spanning not-quite love story of its main protagonists, Lucy, Piero and his friend Nicola. Set in Italy and Norway and Rome, this is — despite the title — a quiet and subtle, but emotionally complex graphic novel about a relationship. The title underlines the difficulty of lining up your life with another, and how time and distance can cause it all to slip through your fingers if you don’t grab a firm hold when you can.
This book, Fior’s first in English, is a literary piece of comics art that more than anything seems to connect with modern art house cinema. When I read the book, I thought of Abbas Kiarostami’s CERTIFIED COPY, not another comic book, though I suppose you could imagine Jaime Hernandez coming up with this one if he’d been born in Italy to a middle-class family a couple of decades later than he did.
5,000 KM is visually balanced, evoking and suggests instead of spelling things out, allowing the reader to interpret and participate, thus making he situations more relatable and real. It’s all done in watercolors, yielding dazzlingly natural results. The various locations are color schemed — not overtly, but enough to distinguish each and make the sections stand out. The flow of colors and lines is simple and classy, making every page full of tiny paintings each of which I’d gladly frame and hang on a wall, but when you apply a sequence and a story to them, it’s breathtaking.
Storyline is sometimes revealed in a non-linear manner, demanding the readers’ attention. This and the poetry of the presentation is also what gives the book its realism — things are far more suggested than spoken, implied by gestures and expressions. Winner of prestigious international awards, this is a perfect book to hand out to someone who is not traditionally interested in comics. Just like Jaime Hernandez’s LOVE BUNGLERS.
Now for far more traditional comics fare, you could do worse than try out one or few volumes of THORGAL. I haven’t come back to this decades long series since the 13th volume came out three years ago. This sword and sorcery show follows the titular warrior (raised by Vikings, possessing some off-planet ancestry) roaming the world with his wife and kids in tow, from one adventure to another.
The latest episode available in English, THE BLUE PLAGUE is a direct continuation of ARACHNEA, but like each volume in the series, they work as an individual book with a distinct beginning and an end. This time Thorgal and his family are sailing close to an unknown shore when they’re attacked by pirates and forced ashore. His son and wife catch the horrible “Blue Plague” and Thorgal must find a cure or see his family perish.
It’s all colorfully illustrated by Rosinski, and cleanly written by Van Hamme. Solid entertainment, underwhelming to someone who has been reading this stuff for about as long as this series has been around, but for fans of the series and kids finding it anew it is a perfectly fine and engaging episode. I would have absolutely loved this and all the earlier volumes when I was around 10-12 years of age. It reminded me of the 1970s Tarzan comics I devoured before finding Roy Thomas’ CONAN books, full of dastardly nobility, tough but good gypsy bandits, unrequited love, creepy underwater creatures and copious sword and arrow action. To summarize: Thorgal is kid-friendly GAME OF THRONES. —JT Lindroos
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