Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Omni-Visibilis by Lewis Trondheim and Matthieu Bonhomme

Herve Boileau is an everyman in Paris: more than a little neurotic, too much of a neat freak, a bit too creepy towards women. But basically a normal guy, probably around thirty. He works in an office doing something we don't know all that much about. We see him go through one day quickly at the beginning of this book.

And, when he wakes up the next morning, he's the center of the world. Not in the sense of having power or influence, but more literally. His senses are somehow broadcast to every human being on Earth - everyone sees what he sees, hears what he hears, smells what he smells. They seem to need to close their eyes to see through Herve's eyes, but he's suddenly no longer anonymous, no longer just another guy.

Everyone wants to find him, to control or exploit this effect, but Herve just wants it to stop. Or, failing that - and how can he stop something completely inexplicable he didn't start? - to get away from people and be left alone. Even with the help of a few friends from work, that's not going to be easy. Or maybe possible.

Omni-Visibilis is the story of Herve's time at the center of the world: it's a 2010 bande dessinee written by Lewis Trondheim and drawn by Matthieu Bonhomme, published in English for the first time in an electronic edition last year as translated by Tom Imber.

After the intro, it's pretty much all one-damn-thing-after-another, with thriller-style plotting: Herve is on the run, trying to find somewhere hidden and nondescript to hide out...because, remember, everyone in the world can see what he sees, so if he looks at anything distinctive at all, thousands or millions of people will know instantly where he is. I don't want to give away any of the twists and turns, since the joy of a book like this is in the discovery - but there is a lot of headlong rush, a lot of ideas and plots. It's not quite one 160-page-long chase scene, but it can feel that way at times.

It's a lot of fun: Trondheim has always been good at recomplication and escalating problems, which serves him well here. And Bonhomme has a crisp, realistic style here, mostly working in a six-panel grid and using a cool blue accent color. It all looks like a modern world, with people only very slightly cartoony to emphasize facial expressions.

There could be a sequel, some day. Hell, for all I know, there are five sequels in French. (Well, no: I don't read French, but I can figure out from the Dupuis web-page that it's still a standalone.) Anyway, this is a hoot. I recommend it for anyone who likes goofy semi-serious fantastika thrillers in comics form.

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