Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

Le dernier Atlas, tome 1, by Fabien Vehlmann, Gwen De Bonneval and Fred Blanchard

Second frame of third chapter:

Momo: Hey, can I talk to you? [literally: are you listening to me?]
Ismaël: Yes.

I'm always trying to broaden my reading of bande dessinées, and this won the Prix René Goscinny 2020 so I thought I would give it a go. The setting is a really interesting alternate history (uchronie as the French put it), in which France won the Algerian war by developing giant nuclear powered robots to stomp out the resistance; but in the end, Algeria gained independence after all after the 1976 Batna disaster (which everyone mutters about but has not yet been described) and the robots were all dismantled apart from one which is quietly rusting away in India. Our protagonist, a hoodlum from Nantes in roughly the present day (2020 ish, in the alternate timeline), is given the task of retrieving it for his crime boss. Meanwhile in the Algerian desert, something very strange is happening.

This is really good, and you don't need to be an expert in the history of France and Algeria to appreciate it. The characters are all well drawn and well depicted, and the scenes of France, Algeria and India are convincing, with the legacy of colonialism a major subtheme. Giant nuclear-powered robots are a silly idea, of course, but the point is that they and their crew became cult figures for kids in the 1970s like our protagonist, who still has his sticker book. Gloriously, the robot he is sent to India to retrieve is named after George Sand, the embodiment of French culture stomping out the natives. Here's the promotional video for the second volume, which is next on my list of non-English-language comics.

It hasn't been translated into English yet (surely some smart publisher will pick it up?) but you can get it here.

Edited to add: Turns out that individual parts are being translatedm, here.
Tags: bookblog 2021, comics, french

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