And Then I Read: THE AMAZING REMARKABLE MONSIEUR LEOTARD

© Eddie Campbell & Dan Best.

This is the third book with art by Campbell for publisher First Second (I almost said “graphic novel,” what was I thinking?) Dan Best joins him on this one as co-writer. The cover is a good indication of what’s inside, I would call it a Tall Tale with a circus theme, centered in Europe, mainly Paris, but with escapades elsewhere. The main character is a Chaplinesque figure who is thrust into the role of trapeze artist on the death of his uncle, the original “Monsieur Leotard,” and who manages to get by in the circus by apparently not taking it or himself too seriously. In a career with many ups and downs, young Etienne finds himself in the midst of historic events like the Siege of Paris, the Jack The Ripper murders, (nice bit of irony, that) and the sinking of the Titanic. But the overall feel is light, nothing played for melodrama, and Campbell’s visual inventiveness and humor keep breaking out everywhere, from small gags in the margins to major plot events. If I was to sum up the feel of this book in one word, it would be “whimsical.”

If you only know Eddie Campbell from his massive work with Alan Moore, “From Hell,” this is quite a departure, but in fact it’s a good reflection of the body of his own comics work, and even his entertaining blog (link in the left column of this page). Dan Best, a fellow Aussie and friend of Campbell’s has had some previous comics work, but I can’t say I’ve seen it, so I’m unable to evaluate his contribution, except to say that I enjoyed the writing as much as the art, both are entertaining. Recommended.

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