Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Saturday and Sunday, Vol. 1: Rock Heaven by Fabien Vehlmann & Gwen De Bonneval

I don't want to be reductive here. (Well, maybe I do.) But it certainly seems to be that the central theme of European comics for younger readers is "what it the point of life, and how can you find the right path?" while the central theme of US comics for young readers is either (Big Two) "hitting people is how you solve problems" or (the YA world) "you are a unique special snowflake, and will have to overcome whatever horrible thing happened to you that you had no control over."

And the European version just feels more appealing and positive.

Is it just me? Maybe it's just me.

That popped into my head while reading Saturday and Sunday, Vol. 1: Rock Heaven, which collects the first fifty pages, more or less, of a series of stories from younger readers by the French creators Fabien Vehlmann and Gwen De Bonneval.

Saturday and Sunday are two little lizard guys, who live on a beach somewhere, part of an atoll. They're fishing one day when Saturday starts wondering why they're there, and how they got there. Turns out their memories are vague, so they're not entirely sure. So they decide to explore the atoll and see if they can figure out where they came from and what they should do next.

That's what I mean: this book is explicitly about "what is the aim of life?" Somewhat in the general, philosophical sense, but even more in the concrete, what should these guys do sense. And since this is a book for younger readers, they do find things to do along the way, and you might guess where all of their journeying takes them in the end.

It's not dumbed-down; the language is relatively sophisticated though the concepts are pretty much Ontology 101, the stuff that every bright person either discovers early or independently re-invents. That's exactly right for a book like this, which will be the introduction of these concepts to most of its readers. Why are we here? What should we be doing? What comes after this? All of those are explicitly part of the conversation here.

That may sound like spinach, but it's not: these are just two guys wandering about, talking to people, learning new things, and trying to figure out where they came from and what they should do. They find things to do everywhere: some positive, some that they need to get away from quickly. And they're fun characters to follow on that journey, like a European Frog and Toad.

The last time I read a book by Vehlman and De Bonneval (who is male, by the way: I don't hit his work often enough not to be surprised by that every time) it was the also somewhat philosophical but more clearly adult Last Days of an Immortal, seven years ago. It should probably be more often than that, but in my defense Euro-comics are published in odd and quirky ways these days, digital-only a lot of the time.

But there are more Saturday and Sunday books; I'll have to check those out.

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