Bubbles & Gondola is an odd and cute graphic novel about a little mouse who’s used to his solitude but who slowly learns how to emerge from his little hole and embrace the world around him.
As you can see from the images that accompany this review, this is an awfully charming book. Renaud Dillies is a wonderful artist, able to capture the intense and sweet fairy-tale life that Charlie the Mouse lives in, a world of bright colors, intense emotions and frustrating disappointments.
Yeah, this is almost a fairy tale, but it’s also very French, which means it delivers a wide range of emotions to go along with the cuteness. As you can see from the pages below, Charlie the Mouse is a very lonely creature. He’s a frustrated mouse who dreams of being a writer but doesn’t have anything to actually write about. His quiet, dull life is rich in inner thoughts but poor in actual interactions with other beings, poor in companionship and kinship. Even when he visits his family for a birthday dinner, there’s a sense that Charlie is slowly drifting away from the family who love him, drifting to a quiet and inert world that’s mostly inside his own head.
Then one day Charlie gets a couple of surprising visitors. First a cheerful giraffe appears at the mouse’s window, nailing electric lights to the side of Charlie’s house as part of the planning for an upcoming Mardi Gras. The giraffe is a carefree spirit, in contrast with morose Charlie, and even his injured thumb, smashed by a hammer blow, doesn’t get the giraffe down.
The other visitor is a bluebird (of happiness?) in a top hat called Mister Solitude, who announces to Charlie that “I’ll appear every time you feel lonely!” and slowly pulls Charlie out of his self-imposed sadness and inertia. He forces Charlie to emerge from his home and end up in a hot air balloon and then to make his way to the town carnival. At the carnival, as the events around him get more and more surreal (and more and more beautifully colored and drawn), Charlie puts on a mask and suddenly finds a bit of kinship and happiness. He puts on a mask and is finally able to put aside his inner angst.
This is a sweet story, simply told but with some gorgeous art and coloring by Dillies. It seems a bit unsubstantial for the $16.99 cover price as it’s a quick read with a great deal of silence and not a huge amount of complexity. But the book is charming and sweet and well told. Gillies does very attractive comics, and his work can definitely be shared with kids who will probably appreciate this story.
Jason Sacks has been obsessed with comics for longer than he’d like to remember. He considers himself a student of comics history and loves delving into obscure corners of this crazy artform. Jason has been writing for this site for about seven years and has also been published in a number of fan publications, including the late, lamented Amazing Heroes and The Flash Companion. He lives in north Seattle with his wife and three kids.