This second Fantagraphics reprint volume collects the third and fourth numbers of Jacques Tardi’s Adele Blanc-Sec stories: “The Mad Scientist” and “Mummies on Parade.” “The Mad Scientist” is very much in line with the earlier numbers with its modest pacing, bewildering plot, and droll character interactions. It focuses on the reanimation of a Pithecanthropus and his surprising behavior, and culminates in some spectacular violence on the streets of 1912 Paris. In “Mummies on Parade” Tardi really pulls out the stops, bringing together plot threads from almost all of the earlier stories, adding a mass revivification of Egyptian mummies, connecting Adele’s troubles with the wreck of the Titanic, and providing a downbeat ending after a somewhat hilarious cascade of mayhem. The art in “Mummies” is especially fine: there were several panels that I would be happy to enlarge and hang on my wall — though my tastes are rather outré!
The intrigue of the Blanc-Sec graphic novels starts in media res in this first volume, made up of translated reprints of the first two numbers of the French series. “Pterror over Paris” is pretty bewildering–a complicated plot is only further confused by a passage of three pages or more where it seems like everyone in 1911 Paris is running around in dark glasses and false moustaches! Despite numerous murders and maimings, it seems that little has been resolved by the end of this episode.
The second number “The Eiffel Tower Demon” offers a more conclusive ending, and also provides a brief reprise of the previous one that gave me some needed reassurance that I had understood the story to that point. Throughout these yarns, there are no especially noble or heroic characters, although protagonist Adele is gradually coming into better focus. There are competing criminal elements, dangerously idealistic scientists, and cops who are alternately incompetent or corrupt.
Tardi’s art is great fun, and reminds me somewhat of the virtues of Ted McKeever. The Thompson translation of the text seems quite able.