Imagine a parallel universe where the field of comics and graphic novels was not dominated by superheroes. That would be France, where the graphic novel is now considered an art form unto itself, like film. Believe me, I loves me some Daredevil and Catwoman as much as most comics fans, but whenever I happen to come across some comics from France—which, you know, is rare—I’m always kind of amazed. It may just be pure chance, but much of what I see going on is stories about parallel universes and science fiction.
Case in point, Glacial Period, written and illustrated by Nicolas de Crécy: We’re in the future, during a new Ice Age, where small group of scientists from a place known only as the South, have journeyed north on cross country skis to explore the Lost Continent (Europe) and find the Metropolis (Paris). The details are unclear, which I like (I hate when writers give me exposition—just set me down in the action and go) but some technology know-how seems to have been lost, though they do now have genetically modified dogs, which can talk, and which are named after old gods that humans used to worship — like Hulk and Spider-Man.
Glacial Period is part of a series of graphic novels put out by the Louvre in Paris. I’ve written about my amazement at this elsewhere , but again, imagine The Met (The Metropolitan Museum of Art) in New York City publishing graphic novels. I know, right? And yet, how cool would that be?
What these graphic novels have in common is that the story lines include the Louvre in some way. Thus, our scientists stumble onto, and into, the museum, and part of the fun and interest of the story is seeing how they interpret our time and culture based on the visual artwork they find. Some of it’s kinda off, some kinda funny, and some spot on.
De Crécy’s artwork is great—pencil sketches with watercolors, a style I’m loving more and more for its soft, anti-digital feel, and which works well in outdoors scenes especially, like the many panels of snowy landscapes here. When the scientists finally enter the Louvre, the paintings appear as prints, which might sound potentially jarring contrasted with de Crécy’s art, but it adds a vividness when we see them: they stand out and make us notice them, just like they do to the scientists in the story.
I really love the dystopian world de Crécy has created, though the story does feel bent towards the Louvre as the main focus—which, again, is what the Louvre éditions series is all about. But I found myself wanting the story to go on longer, with perhaps something more substantial, more epic, some greater conflict, something more to be at stake. I can say no more due to spoilers, but the overall effect, especially visually, is beautiful and – finally — magical.
Like the other Louvre éditions graphic novel I reviewed, Nicolas de Crécy’s Glacial Period makes me re-appreciate how I think of visual art like painting and sculpture, especially collected together in one place. I kind of knew this already, maybe unconsciously, but the experience of a museum is a way to think about different ages and cultures, and what they valued, which (hopefully) makes us think about what our own age and cultures value, and how others might view us.
Which is the point of the Louvre putting out these graphic novels. It’s genius, really—using a new art form as a way to talk about, and celebrate, traditional art forms, and the “art” of museums themselves. Glacial Period will make you re-think how you think about art. Kudos to American publishers NBM and their imprint ComicsLit for bringing this series from a parallel universe to us.