Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sunday Revue November 22nd: Les Normaux

Today, Fall In Love With Magical Paris

And The Magic Of

Ah Paris. The City of Lovers. No matter who you're looking for, you'll find them. Especially if you go looking in the magical quarter!
This beautiful, gentle tale of friendship and romance is the creation of artists penning under the names KnightJJ and Al, and can be found here
It all begins when Sebastian, a young wizard, arrives in Paris.He came to study magic. What he ends up learning is so much more.

The Rating

As soft and sweet as a spring night in Paris. A wonderful tale

The Raves

There is so much to love about Les Normaux that it's hard to choose what deserves the limelight first, but I think I'll begin with the story. The tales are told as interlocking series of personal accounts as a strange and wonderful group of friends and lovers finds one another in the streets of Paris. Told in personal recounting, in letters, in diary entries, these interlocking narratives let us into the personal lives of a varied crew with gentle authenticity, sweet and funny without ever straying into syrupy sentimentality, the bane of so many romances. Les Normaux works because it is honest, both with readers and with its material. It explores all the delicate, difficult moments that define the formation of a relationship, neither over-dramatizing them nor shying away into the safe 'happy places' that most romances stay in; the meet cutes, the contrived misunderstandings that are easily solved and the non-nonsensical problems that are usually invented. Instead of these ploys, Les Normaux shines gentle light on the small, every day conflicts that go on within ourselves as we make friends and fall in love. Is this real?, the characters ask themselves. Am I good enough? Am I going to mess everything up?
It sounds angsty when I write it down, but this comic handles those real struggles with the delicate grace reminiscent of movies like 'Hugo', 'Chocolat' and 'Waking Ned Divine', so that material that would be angst in the hands of less skilled creators becomes illuminating introspection, at once humanizing characters and illuminating the inner lives of its readers, framing real-life struggles in a powerful and affirming way.
Oh and, by the way, it's not nearly as serious as I make it sound. In fact, you'll burst out laughing pretty regularly.

The story finds its perfect synergistic partner in the artwork, a style that blends the beautifully organic look of pen and ink washes with the technical expertise of good cartooning. The body language is some of the best I've seen, and the character design is delightful, giving us a wonderfully diverse cast of characters.
The grasp of the relation of color to mood is pretty stunning as well, and the understanding of light  is superb.

In fact, the art's so good in this comic that, as you can see, as a reviewer I had a great deal of trouble limiting how many images I used. I hope you go and read the work for yourselves to see its beauty first hand.

The Razzes

Only a few things could really be improved on in Les Normaux. There are, now and again, a few tiny problems with foreshortening that need work, especially in arms and hands. Aside from that, the artist makes a stylistic choice that, while it's cute, jars me as a reader. Take a look at the image below.
Now, it's not a big deal, but the switches between chibi style and realism sometimes feel like they break the flow of the story, and can be really jarring to the reading experience.

The Revue

A lovely and lyrical exploration of love in all its forms. A true masterpiece. You need to read this one.

*A Note From The Management: this review was written two weeks ago, before the terrible attacks in Paris. In the wake of such things, I considered postponing this review because I didn't want to seem insensitive or, worse, to be pandering. I did not do so, because I think that Les Normaux is beautiful work, and in dark times we need beautiful things more desperately than ever. Through works like this, we see Paris and human nature at its very best. We need that. 

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