Trial and Error – One magnificent man in his flying machines

Published On November 25, 2009 | By Richard Bruton | Comics, Reviews

Trial and Error – The Aviated Efforts Of Jean Babtiste de Bomberaque

by Øivind Hovland

Tabella Publishing

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The second of Øivind Hovland’s books for Tabella that I’ve had the pleasure of reading, although this is actually his first published graphic novel and shows a lightness of tone and a talent for comedy timing that you don’t see in his second work “A Day In The Life Of Alfred“.

Trial and Error concerns itself with the life and dreams of Jean Babtiste de Bomberaque, a French nobleman with a passion to fly. Through his life we see his passion defeated time and again as he reaches for the skies and comes crashing back to earth, although for his very earliest attempts he did manage to lose the family pet when he experimented with a hamster-carrying hydrogen balloon. But he prevails, getting nearer and nearer to that dream of powered flight in this pre Wright Brothers world.

Trial and Error is incredibly short for a graphic novel, it’s just 32 pages long, but since each double page is actually a very cleverly designed single flowing image, the action starting on the left and flowing, without panel borders, over to the right in a single sweeping movement – it’s effectively  just a 16 page story, with no dialogue and even very few captions. But that doesn’t matter since Øivind Hovland’s art does all the storytelling we need, all lush, thick blacks to begin with, and later, as the dreams of flight really begin to take off, more and more dominated by white as the sky begins to fill the pages, freeing us to fly with Jean Babtiste de Bomberaque (or JBB as he labels his planes).

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(Early on JBB’s experiments with hot air balloons see him never reaching the heights, careering across the beautiful countryside landscapes of Hovland’s imagination. From Trial and Error by Øivind Hovland. Tabella Publishing.)

There’s a thick vein of visual comedy running through Trial and Error as JBB builds more and more refined flying machines that are launched over a countryside becoming increasing littered with past failures and he soars and falls, soars and falls, soars and …. well, you’ll just have to read it to see won’t you?

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(Further into his aviation career and JBB takes to the skies – but this is only the first half of the double page spread – and Hovland tells such good visual gags on his second pages, showing us the continual folly of JBB, that I want you to see for yourselves. From Trial and Error by Øivind Hovland. Tabella Publishing.)

It’s very short, and a very quick read, but just like the first book of Hovland’s I read, A Day In The Life Of Alfred, the artwork and storytelling is so sumptuous and involving that this is one to return to, to delight in. Very good indeed.

Richard Bruton.

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About The Author

Richard Bruton

– Started in comics retail aged 16 at Nostalgia & Comics, Birmingham. Now located in Yorkshire, he’s written for the Forbidden Planet International Blog since 2007. Specialising in UK Comics and All-Ages comics, Richard’s day job in a primary school allowed him to build the best children’s graphic novel library in the country.