Comic Solutions

Exquisite Corpse

screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-8-29-21-amExquisite Corpse
Pénélope Bagieu
First Second
May 2015

Zoe isn’t exactly someone you would call intellectual. In fact, she doesn’t really like to read all that much, and well…she wouldn’t know JK Rowling from Stephen King. But she soon gets drawn into the literary world when she stumbles into the apartment of Thomas Rocher, long thought dead, but really hiding in plain sight to boost the sales of his books. But now he’s stuck on completing his next book. Until Zoe stumbles into his life. She’s different. She’s unique. She’s his muse! But they come from two different worlds! How will they make it when he gets wrapped up in his work? And what happens afterwards?

Flipping through the book you’ll get a decidedly, well European style coming from the book. And that’s not surprising given that the author, Penelope Bagieu, is a Parisian artist/writer. It’s got that sort of tongue in cheek sense of humor that the French are known for and that may at times be a bit off putting or feel hard to swallow for American audiences. By that I mean, well the climax of the book is something that seems to suddenly spring out of nowhere. I know, I know it sounds like I’m saying its a sudden twist ending…but it’s really not. Not if you go back and read through the book and look for the hidden visual cues. Because that’s more in the European style of tongue in cheek.

OK let’s see if I can describe this in a slightly different manner. Think of the classic Peter Seller’s Pink Panther movies. You know the good ones before…casting other people in the titular role. Anyway each character in those movies plays a specific role and they aren’t necessarily fully fleshed out people, nor do they have to be. You just have to connect with the part that they’re playing and that’s what Bagieu does well here. You connect to the parts being played and what’s going to happen next is always a bit of a mystery in a sense which makes it fun to read.

Bagieu also has a rather simple drawing style, with bare essence of the character being hinted at, much like the classic Pink Panther cartoons. We don’t need a lot of details, just the basic needs and we can fill see where they’re coming from. She also works from a rather limited color palette, again like the cartoons, that fill in the shapes and give us something to look at. While she uses different shades and values of a color to hint at physical form, it’s always in a block shape style so that the simpleness of the character remains.

Again, this may be something some American audiences have trouble with and it isn’t going to be for everyone. And that’s ok, it’s not what the novel is shooting for. Instead it’s shooting for the type of readers that enjoy the Pink Panther cartoons and sense of humor. The ones that are going to laugh at the weird quirks that show up and the eccentricness of the characters. If that describes you, then you’ll enjoy this book.

ARC provided by Gina at First Second

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