Monday, February 25, 2013

Graphic Novels Challenge: Belladone


An assassin takes a shot at Louis XIV, but the ball is deflected by the iron fan of a nearby nun, who with a winsome smile leaps over the shoulders of a King's Musketeers to gain the balcony from which the assassin flees.

So opens Belladone, the creation of former Disney animator and comic artist Pierre Alary. Set in 1680 France, the story features a secret cabal of protectors of the Sun King, an Italian assassin, the Cour des Miracles, black maket 'Merchants of Death' dealing in poisons and other nastiness, and flirting between Marie, the disguised nun who is a member of the cabal, and Maxime, the captain of the King's Musketeers, who's been promised Marie's bed if he can defeat her in combat.

Ah, l'amour.

The story is simple, following the attempts of the Italian - no name is given, nor needed - on the life of Louis XIV, ostensibly for an affront to the Pope, and the efforts of Marie and Maxime - and Maxime's mother, who runs the secret cabal of guards of which Marie is a member - to protect the king. The action is beautifully illustrated, the story fast-paced and exciting, the characters engaging.

One of the amazing and wonderful aspects of the comic medium is that the stories transcend language. Belladone is written in French, but when I showed a few pages to my daughter and asked her to describe what was happening, the Cabin Girl could follow the action without recourse to the words. When she's a few years older, I look forward to sitting down with her and sharing the whole book together. Marie is a great example of a woman swashbuckler, as capable as the men without sacrificing her womanhood, and without being rendered as fanservice.

There are two more volumes of the Belladone saga, but because they are hardcover imports, they tend to be rather pricey, so I haven't - yet - picked up the sequels.

12 comments:

  1. Sinbad has made me a fan of Alary and my library has Belladone as well, so I definitely plan to read it. Luckily, we Germans have a thing for French comics and it's usually not a problem to get a German edition ... probably because of Asterix.

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    1. The Belgian commitment to trilingualism probably helps as well - with the country largely divided between Dutch and French speakers, and with a significant German speaking minority, it only makes sense.

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  2. This looks really nice, though a bit cher here in the U.S.

    btw, I love the expression "fan service" for gratuitous titillation. My 12 year-old manga-fan daughter taught me that term.

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    1. I think this would be right in your wheelhouse, Caoimhe.

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  4. You blackguard, the ending is a non-ending :(

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  5. Interesting. I don't get the appeal of female swashbucklers, or any of the other gender-bending nonsense that's so popular these days, but it sounds like a fun romp. I may have to look further into this.

    My boys love Asterix but I hadn't seen anything comparable for the swashbuckler.

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    1. I don't get the appeal of female swashbucklers, or any of the other gender-bending nonsense that's so popular these days.

      Well, there did exist female swashbucklers in history: La Maupin, Catalina de Eranso, Louise Labe, Briliana Lady Harley, et al. They were certainly the exception to the norms of the day. But history is filled with exceptions to the norms, and I take full advantage of that when running historical RPGs, especially with players who want to create a character who runs counter to those norms.

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    2. There're also classic movies like At Sword's Point with Maureen O'Hara and The Sword of Monte Cristo with Rita Corday.

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    3. And the most successful pirate in history was a
      Chinese woman!

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