I Hate Paris

Posted by on September 2nd, 2010 at 7:00 PM

Claimed as the first trash graphic novel, I Love Paris by the Belgian duo of writer Peter Moerenhout and writer/artist Maarten Vande Wiele was a huge success and  sold out at stores and comic shops in Belgium. I Hate Paris is the follow up and while I Love Paris wasn’t skimpy on explicit sex scenes, on the whole everything remained rather nice (for a trash novel anyway) and ended on a note of redemption for Hope, the scarred girl who underwent plastic surgery and finally got a chance to model at the end of I Love Paris. In I Hate Paris though, all registers are open and the story swirls from one depraved scene into another, using an equal mixture of snappy and bitchy conversations, luxuriously sprinkled with drugs, alcohol and sex. It’s Sex and the City cranked up to eleven in the gutters of the Parisian fashion world. If this was a movie, it would be a sexploitation seventies film à la Behind the Green Door but with better costumes.

I Hate Paris is a shocker and is upfront about it. No sense in putting a loop on every page, searching for hidden subtext and obscure references to start up a literary discourse on your favourite message board. This is a no holds barred trash graphic novel, love it or leave it.

Hope, Faith and Charity want to make it in the Parisian world of pop culture. Hope wants to be a model, Faith a succesful musician and Chastity … she just wants to be rich and famous, luckily she has a world class bod and a voracious sexual appetite.

The story has a nice curvature of making things better before they get worse. Writers Peter Moerenhout and Maarten Vande Wiele succeed in creating characters that you would love to hate, arriving at the same effect as reality TV. They are all such unlikable protagonists that you are fascinated by the myriad ways they keep – literally sometimes – fucking it up for themselves. Whether it is Hope with her insufferable clinging need to become a model and to be loved, Faith who turns into the queen of alcoholic backstabbers in order to make it into the pop business or Chastity who is at least up front about screwing her way to the top outclassing even Paris Hilton by first surgically re-instating her virginity to subsequently sell it again on Ebay. Genius. Who actually wants to see these people redempted is in for a big surprise at the end.

And while the story has a nice rythm to it driven along by some excellent dialogue, unfortunately the same can’t be said for the sequentials. While Maarten Vande Wiele has a beautiful reto illustration style, his sequential work tends to drown itself in black ink, close cropped borders and heavy ink lines. It is obvious that he is a major talent with a graphic retro feeling sporting fluid brush work. He knows how to create negative space and use it to the fullest effect. He instinctively leaves out lines, using shapes to indicate form and texture (as indicative on the cover and inside covers). But in his sequentials, characters are often presented in medium or close shots, full frontal view or a quarter view and need to be distinguished from one another by visual stylings like hairstyle or jewelry instead of facial features.

Part of the claustrophobic feel is the smaller size of the publication, Vande Wiele’s art suffers a bit from the constrained format. Blowing up the art would free up the artwork, allowing the white shapes to counterbalance the abundant black as can be seen in this rather large online preview of I Love Paris. Vande Wiele’s sequential shortcomings though only come to the front because of the length of the work. I Hate Paris is 112 pages long and for the first 50, the retro stylings of Vande Wiele chuck nicely along but after a while, you find yourself gasping for air and feeling relieved whenever there’s a panel that cuts back a little and shows us an actual view of Paris. It’s a shame that the high pacing of the story – because there happens a lot in those 112 pages – isn’t able to find a counterbalance in the art. I’m tempted to say that the art reflects the energetic pacing on a conscious level but checking out older work by the artist f.e. Doctor Karnaci or Strip Noir one can see that they suffer from the same affliction but being shorter works (approximately 22 pages), pacing and camera work tend to be delegated to the background in favour of style. Unfortunately, a 112 page GN isn’t carried by style alone.

In the end there’s plenty to like about I Hate Paris. For example the footnotes on the pages indicating what designer dress the characters are wearing or the many cruel shenanigans of the threesome that keep spinning out of control and grabbing the reader unexpectedly (in the testicles?). The I Hate Paris GN succeeds in what it set out to do: providing sensational and trashy superficial fun and admit it, trash with perfection isn’t trash anymore.

Note: All  images of the sequential pages are photographs of pages of the hardcopy of the book and are not representative of the quality of printing of the graphic novel itself of which the printing is crisp and clear.

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