Sunday, December 04, 2016

5,000 km per second by Manuele Fior

I wish I could just hand this book to you so you could go into it as ignorant as I was. I knew I'd read a good review or two of Manuele Fior's 5,000 km per second somewhere, and I knew it was translated. (I thought it was French, but it's actually from the Italian.) But that was about it. I'd picked it up a couple of times and poked through it before eventually buying it: what that mostly meant was I was impressed by the moody, color-coded art and thought it was some kind of domestic story.

If you want, you can stop there. This is one of the best graphic novels I've read this year -- maybe for much longer than that; I have to think about it -- and you don't need to know any more than that. It's a story about people in the real world, and their interactions through time. A love story, maybe. A people story, definitely. And the world needs more emotionally smart people stories like this: there are never enough.

If you want more, here's what I can tell you: we begin in Italy. A teenage girl, Lucia, is moving into an apartment with her mother, after the father went away. Two local boys, maybe a year or two older, are lurking around, and catch sight of her --they're Nicola and Piero. That scene is mostly yellows and greens. A few pages later, there's another scene, in blues, set in Norway, and one of those three is now studying there, a few years later.

5,000 km per second continues on like that, jumping into different scenes in different times, circling around the lives of Piero and Lucia and Nicola, with a palette suitable for each time and place and mood. Each moment is true, every character is real.

This isn't a story about easy answers or romantic gestures or big emotional moments: if your idea of a love story is a Hollywood movie, you will be hugely disappointed by Fior's much truer, much more mixed story. But he tells this story beautifully and lovingly, through body language and dialogue -- even more of the former than the latter; just look at the cover to get a sense of that -- and it's a stunning, deep experience. This is another book to put on the short shelf of comics to hand to people who think comics are junk: it's deep, and meaningful, and lovely, and bittersweet in the best way.

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