Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Black Order Brigade

Written by Pierre Christin
Art by Enki Bilal

I don't read enough European graphic novels, so when I saw the chance to grab this one for a good price, I pounced on it.

The Black Order Brigade is a very odd project by North American standards.  To begin with, it's about a bunch of old people, and there are no pretty people in the comic whatsoever.  It also assumes that its reader has a knowledge of 20th century European history.  These two things together would really limit the interested readership on our side of the Atlantic Ocean.

This comic is about a group of former fighters who had joined the International Brigades that fought during the Spanish Civil War.  Our heroes had a group of ultra-right enemies, known as the Black Order Brigade.  When this book opens, in the 1970s, the members of the BOB came out of retirement to wipe out a small Spanish village which had been the scene of one of their battles back in the 30s.  From here, they proceed to move across Europe, taking out politicians they don't like, or attacking music festivals.

Pritchard, a former member of the International Brigades and a journalist now living in London recognizes the village massacre as the handiwork of his old enemies, so he sets out reuniting his former compatriots, who band together to wipe out the Black Order Brigade once and for all.  They set off after them, trudging through snow-filled mountain passes despite their advanced age and frequently ill health.

Soon, the good guys are being blamed for some of the BOB's actions, and with their numbers dwindling, they become more desperate to find their enemies.  There are some intense scenes in this comic, but for the most part, it's a slow-moving affair.  I loved the scenes set in Barcelona, a favourite city of mine.

Bilal is a very capable French artist, who does not shy away in the least from the depredations of age.  His characters are wrinkly and ugly, with oddly discoloured foreheads.  This Humanoids edition is published in the same size as the original French volume, which means that there is plenty of space for his art to breathe on the page.

Reading this, I couldn't help but think of the movie Red, had it been played seriously, instead of for laughs.

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