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The Spectators h/c

The Spectators h/c The Spectators h/c The Spectators h/c

The Spectators h/c back

Victor Hussenot


Page 45 Review by Stephen

A book of reverie and rumination, this is a serene experience with plenty of space for you to stop and think for yourself.

It's full of curiosity and questions, about one's own life in the grand scheme of things and the lives of others - strangers you'll never know or wihose paths you may only partially, temporarily insect.

As such there are a lot of silhouettes and shadows seen from afar, perhaps against the light of city windows at night.

And it is very much another city book, but a far less frightening one than FLOOD. There's a nod to the existence of countryside beyond, right at the start rendered in a Gaugin-esque cacophony of non-local colour, before the tranquil misty blues, salmon pinks and creams herald the start of our tour round a city which has much to show us if we stop to look carefully and much to make us muse if we use our mind's eyes. There's a lot of imagining of what lies within and what lies beyond.

City transport features heavily. Early on Hussenot reflects on the contrast between the familiarity of one's surroundings every day - the actual train or bus - and one's fellow commuters who come and go. Some may reappear from time to time sitting in different pairs, others may never been seen again. But this was one of my favourite sequences as an actually playing card held up in one panel becomes instead a passenger on a platform seen through a subway car window.

Arriving at a new station is as exciting as drawing a card in a poker game.
A new platform appears... it's a new deal of the cards...
Some leave the game; others join it... but not always the one's you're expecting.
Each is full of promise, but is the one we really need still hidden in the deck?

Accompanying that third line is a page of six panels, roughly playing card shape, in five of which a commuter catches the narrator's eye, their panels lighting up in different colours while the one who is oblivious remains in the figurative dark.

The unexpected one is a bloke, for the narrator's a bloke, but he doesn't make it onto the lamp-lit drawing board of possibilities whose face cards are all women!

There's another devilishly clever page after two men who've been sitting inches apart on a bench surveying different aspects of the cityscape in front of them are shown to have largely parallel lives as well - give or take a musical influence. I won't give the game away but there are elements of Ray Fawkes' THE PEOPLE INSIDE.

That's one of the rare instances that any word balloons appear in this graphic novel. Predominantly - if there are any words at all - you'll find one or perhaps two sentences above, between or below a full-page spread or two or three tiers of images.

There's a morphing motif which runs throughout, kicked off as our narrator discovers a clothes rail from which four bodies hang with differently coloured clothes. He tries one on for size (and sighs) before selecting another later on. Further down the line he'll be clicking a remote control for a similar but quicker effect. I've been referring to him as our narrator because I couldn't work out what else to do but he's not really. Let's call him our constant companion, even though the body swapping means that constant is the last thing he is!

When I revisit certain places, painful memories resurface: In find myself back in that moment.

Sure enough, as our narrator/companion walks onto set, there's a differently coloured, former version of him sitting at a cafe table with a girl he quite evidently is not longer going out with. But - and this made me sit up and think for I'd never considered it an option - a red-hued future version of him now appears chasing a new girl across the page before they make merry with the drinks and the dancing.

The only way to erase these memories is to return, again and again, to these same locations and fill them with new moments... Which in turn will become memories, which will renew themselves again... and again...

I'll leave you to discover how that is portrayed!

With debossed silver foil on the cover, it's another Nobrow looker and a dreamy affair with some imaginative framing from which I was abruptly awoken, unnecessarily, by the legal gubbins being printed between the prologue and the main body of work. That was a bit daft, wasn't it?