Manu Larcenet: Back on the Scene With a Blast!

Posted by on September 23rd, 2010 at 5:18 AM

Manu Larcenet is one of the greats of the current French vogue of comic artists. I wrote an extensive profile on him at and in a supreme act of ego, I hereby shall paraphrase myself ‘Manu Larcenet excels in depicting the small moments of life, of Man, of the universe.’ That adage still holds true – even more so – for his latest release entitled Blast.

Polza leads a mundane life in a mundane body. After his estranged fathers’death, he wanders through the streets, drunk and overwhelmed by his conflicting emotions. After an excess off alcohol and pills, he receives a Blast; An epiphany bringing order to his life & to his emotional state, so overwhelming that the Blast becomes an obsession. He breaks with his previous life of banality and doles through the countryside, looking for ways to experience the Blast again.

Manu Larcenet throws us straight into the ending of the story encompassing the direct results of Polza’s actions of chasing the Blast. Seated in an interrogation room being interrogated by the police, Polza is suspected of doing something to a woman; that something being part of the suspense. He recounts his life, starting with the death of his father as to make the path to the crime clear for all involved including the reader. Since he is obviously delusional, the police are lenient towards this big hulk of a man in letting him recount his story in the vain hope of clues floating below the surface. It’s definitely important to keep track of who is telling the story in Blast and look for hidden meanings.

Larcenet’s comics are traditionally laden with human emotions and psychological insights. For Blast, he uses a similar psycho-analytical approach, de-constructing the character right before our eyes. From his emotional downfall surrounding the death of his father to Polza trying to re-build his character by leaving his life behind and going hobo, encountering a vagrant community in the forest. But there’s no escaping your inner life and the body that anchors you to earth.

The art and storytelling approach take a radical left turn in Blast. Though still firmly entrenched in the typical French big nose style, Larcenet’s art achieves new heights here. Scratchy linework is alternated with a lot of crosshatching to distantiate fore- and background while the gray watercolours drown the artwork in a dystopian urban atmosphere coupled with hostile nature vista’s perfectly externalizing Polza’s inner turmoil and sense of overwhelmedness. The only flashes of colour we experience is when he has a Blast, literally an explosion of colours and subconscious icons in the form a children’s drasings, superimposed on top of the gray art.

While Ordinary Victories (published by NBM Publishing in the States) and his other comics stayed nicely within the European comics format, Blast is a 208 pages hardcover at a smaller size – more akin to the American comics format but a bit more square – and proceeds at a glacial pacing. Larcenet takes his time drawing out the story and engaging the reader into the mind of Polza who is (or isn’t he?) a delusional psychopath. The big splashpages and many scenes without words, Polza wobbling through the forest, out of his mind; remind one more of manga storytelling but infused with a European sensibity.

Blast is projected to be the first of 5 volumes. If the first volume is an indication of quality, then the other volumes just can’t be published fast enough. Until this is published in English, here is your treat of the day though, a YouTube video of Blast:

Blast by Manu Larcenet

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