The Chimera Brigade: Volume 1 by Serge Lehman, Fabrice Colin, Gess and Celine Bessoneau (graphic novel review)

Like another graphic novel collection I read last week, ‘The Chimera Brigade’ opens with a cast list and a page of text introduction to set the scene. I don’t mind this at all. ‘Show don’t tell’ they say in writers classes but a concise summary of the basic set up can spare the poor reader a lot of rather daft dialogue desperately doing exposition. Some fellow called Lucas made a lot of money with this technique in films.

Chemical weapons used in the trenches of World War One created Superhumans with strange powers. Now it’s 1938 and things are tense in Europe. Doctor Missbraugh, a master hypnotist, is in charge of Germany. He believes that the Superhumans are the master race and should rule over lesser people or even kill them all. To his eastern flank are ‘We’, Moscow’s rulers who believe that the immortal and collective human species itself is the only Superhuman. The leaders of ‘We’ wear iron suits to the conference in Germany that opens the story. Also present is Marc Saint-Clair, alias the Eye, who leads the Committee for Information and Defence in France where he is somewhat at odds with the Radium Institute founded by Marie Curie and now run by her daughter, Irene. It’s a place for scientific research, sometimes on people. Other Superhumans are Gregor Samsa aka the Cockroach who can control insects; Tigrefax who can turn into a tiger and Steele, the American secret weapon who bears more than a passing resemblance to the very first Superhero. These Frenchies will have their fun.

As in real life, the assorted nations are pursuing their interests with varying degrees of ruthlessness. The smaller players have their own personal agendas and a chap called the Elastic Man who can grow very big and shrink very small escapes from the Radium Institute and rampages around Paris in some excellent visuals.

All the visuals are excellent. I love the artwork of Gess. The fine lines and detail, especially on faces, shows the skill of a good old-fashioned illustrator. The page layouts vary according to the needs of the story from big panels to a grid of rectangles like ‘Watchmen’, sometimes sixteen panels to a page. The small figures surrounded by space reminded me somewhat of the early DC work of Gil Kane and Carmine Infantino, especially the latter.

The script is by Serge Lehman and Fabrice Colin and judging by the story so far it promises to be an excellent epic. I’ve spent a lot of time in France, so I love to see Paris graphically portrayed as a backdrop for a Superhuman story. The French have taken comics seriously as a storytelling medium for a long time. Quality work is expected by the audience and they certainly get it here. Highly recommended.

Eamonn Murphy

July 2017

(pub: Titan Comics. 96 page graphic novel softcover. Price: £14.99 (UK), $16.99 (US), $22.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-78585-857-4)

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