Thursday, October 06, 2022

Back to Basics, Vol. 2: Making Plans by Jean-Yves Ferri and Manu Larcenet

So I may have gotten things backward when I wrote about the first book. I have two things to say in my defense. First, the explanation in this book may actually be a joke - it's so weird and convoluted that's a remote possibility. And, second, can you blame me?

Back to Basics, Vol. 2: Making Plans is the second in a series of humorous autobiographical bandes dessinees about cartoonist Manu Larcenet and his partner Mariette, who moved to the rural French village of Ravenelles [1] in mid-2001 and may still be there. (The series runs at least five books - that's what's been translated into English - but those only cover up to about 2007.)

Larcenet does the series with Jean-Yves Ferri, who is credited first. Based on some things in the first book - and maybe just my assumptions - I thought Larcenet wrote these books and Ferri drew them. But in this volume we see the humorously fictionalized story of how Larcenet pitched the series to Dargaud, and a lot of the humor comes from the fact that Ferri writes the series for Larcenet to draw, with the additional complication that Larcenet is deliberately drawing in a different style.

So, yeah. Maybe that's real. It is what they say, so let's take it as true, at least for this book. Vol. 3 may add more complications.

Other than my confusion, this is the same kind of things as the first book: usually six-panel comics (two tiers of three panels, each a half-page here) with Larcenet mostly as the butt of the jokes, about their lives in this oddball obscure corner of France. The locals are exceptionally competent at the usual physical activities that an artist and city-dweller like Larcenet is both not good at and in awe of. Nature is everywhere, including invasive creatures in the house. Mariette is talking about having a baby; Larcenet is talking about making a garden - there's more than a little related cross-talk. There is a local weird child who gloms onto Larcenet for unclear reasons, and It Is Funny.

It has the pace and concerns and amiability of a good daily strip, though the individual comics are roughly double the size of a modern American daily. The characters are broad, maybe just this side of caricature, and the jokes come out of their standard behavior a lot of the time.

It's fun and amiable and entertaining. We've all seen "city mouse tries to fit in with the rural oddballs" stories before, but this one is done solidly and has the advantage of being true, more or less, we think. Larcenet's cartoony style is fun, and Ferri makes the dialogue appropriately goofy - assuming that's how they did break down the work, and I'm not being dogmatic about it at all now.

This is a fun series, of a kind that generally is not done in comics form on my side of the Atlantic. I like all kinds of stories to be in comics form, so that's a big plus for me. It may be for you as well.

[1] I say "village." In the first book, it seemed to be the name of their house. Here it seems to be more general. It may be a region or borough or slang term for a common local slug, for all I know.

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