We don’t do this very often, in fact we don’t do it as often as we should, but this is one of those times we’re going to jump up and down in front of you telling you about a GREAT BARGAIN OVER AT THE FPI WEBSTORE that you should really be taking advantage of.
The FPI webstore has recently come into possession of several, quite magnificent Humanoids books, specifically some beautifully drawn books by Enki Bilal.
And at 50% or more discount, these beautiful, beautiful books are definite must-buys.
Now Enki Bilal and I have a long, long relationship going back to the 80s and 90s, when comic shops, even damn fine comic shops like Nostalgia & Comics Birmingham, just didn’t really do European stuff. So unless it was Moebius republished by Marvel’s Epic imprint, we didn’t see much of it at all. But somehow the boss at N&C got hold of some Bilal. My memory fails me at this point as to whether it was an English translation or the original French.
But whether or not I (with my sub O-level French) could understand it, I certainly recognised the artwork by Enki Bilal as something quite wonderfully magnificent. It completely blew my young mind away. And thanks to this stash of books we’ve uncovered you too can feel the same.
I’ve bought quite a few, concentrating on the beautiful oversized hardcovers; all the better to show off Bilal’s artwork in all its glory, and over the next few days thought I’d try and tell you about a few.
By Pierre Christin and Enki Bilal
“Soviet era Poland and a group of leading international communist politicans assemble on an estate for a hunting trip, which becomes a metaphor dissecting the use and abuse of power in the Cold War Soviet system.”
The Cold War at it’s coldest, as we venture into the frozen world of Russia in the 80s and into the hearts and minds of a group of Politburo members as they gather for a Hunting Party.
Whether they’re gathering to hunt fowl, bear, or each other is never revealed until the end. It all hinges upon Vassily Alexandrovich Chevchenko, the old master whose silence overpowers everyone in the group, his will guiding everything, his memories vivid and bloody, his power unassailable….
In just 88 pages Christin and Bilal create an incredible piece, all taking place over a few days of a hunting trip, yet taking in decades of cold war history from the memories of those Eastern Bloc politicians assembling as friends and colleagues at an isolated luxurious mansion kept on by the ruling party long after the decadent pre Soviet aristocracy had been disposed of.
Throughout the piece we drift in and out of memories of the group of old men, comfortable with power and the political manoeuvrings that have brought them to this place. But there’s dark plottings underneath the surface, and these men are well used to dealing in lies, treachery and deceits.
The story is complex, involving and perfectly done. It’s one to keep your wits about you as the characters are introduced, interact and discuss their past, but if you are keeping up, it’s a story that has a beauty about it amongst the chilling power wielded ever so gentle and with great understatement by these men. Subtleties and intricacies fill this short novella, and the complexity within belies the page count.
And Bilal’s art is, of course, superb.
Beautiful, strange linework and colours, giving such texture and character to each of the old men we’re following through the story. These are men marked with the struggles they’ve survived and the decisions they’ve made, each line marked out on their faces, each line so detailed, each line an indicator of what they’ve been through.
Perfection. Absolute perfection. But what else did you expect from Bilal?
For an artist often associated with the fantastic and the extremes of sci-fi, Bilal’s work at a human level is perhaps more spectacular for the absolute control he shows. Truly beautiful. And where he starts to blend past and present, memories and bloodshed seeping through into the present day it’s beautiful in its horror.
The Hunting Party is quite simply one of those books that your bookcase is bereft without. The perfect example of how to create something complex, magnificent, and beautiful in a limited page count. All wrapped in superb hardback packaging from Humanoids and presented to you at a ridiculously cheap price by the FPI Webstore. £7.50 buys you a couple of pints nowadays. Or it can buy you something you’ll return to again, and again, and again, a masterpiece of European comics.