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BD review: Paul à la pêche by Michel Rabagliati

Adrian K. Sanders writing for I V Y paris


Across the sea, in the smaller, more nasal and religious version of Paris called Montreal is a bustling BD scene. The famous English language publisher Drawn and Quarterly, home to BD greats Seth, Adrian Tomine and Julie Doucet is here but it should never be forgotten that the French language BD is thriving as well.

One publisher in particular brings us the world of Paul, the creation of long time graphic designer Michel Rabagliati. Les Editions de La Pastèque have published nearly all of Rabagliati's "Paul" stories in beautiful volumes (that are color coded!). Paul, the reflective and ponderous auto-biographical hero is a likeable everyman and Rabagliati handles him with deft humor and a resounding sense of humbleness.

Paul à la pêche sees Paul and his wife Lucie go on vacation with their two friends who are raising their own children to a lakeside fishing camp. Seeing his friends and their children has Paul mixed up in all sorts of existential crises. Lucie and Paul are trying to have their first baby, and Paul looks back on his own upbringing, the importance of his family, and the future that might be in store for him as on display by his friend's children.

The theme is familiar, but the honest and open approach to taking the big step is done with a real human touch. The added bonus of seeing just how kooky Canadiens really are keeps things light and fun - seeing various visual iterations of the gros mot "tabernac" is definitely worth a chuckle.

Rabagliati lives up to his heritage as a graphic designer - the page layouts are gorgeous, and the pacing of the narrative makes the story a joy to read. From the quiet moments between Lucie and Paul to the boisterous world of the sport fishermen, Rabagliati's command of composition never falters. In particular, Paul's memory of a nightmarish fishing trip as a boy is fantastic (seen at left).

It's interesting to compare BD coming from Montreal with the typical French stuff. Much like the dialect differences, the real joy in Canadian BD is reading something that feels very familiar but as you explore deeper, is decidedly different and equally wonderful.

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