In Review: Bryan Talbot’s Grandville

Grandville by Bryan Talbotby Bryan Talbot
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Out: 15th October 2009

The Plot: Bryan Talbot’s most recent book, Alice in Sunderland, was hailed by The Guardian as one of the ten best graphic novels ever and acclaimed by critics all over the world. Before that, at the start of his career, he created the first ever steampunk graphic novel, The Adventures of Luther Arkwright.

In GrandvilleGrandville Talbot brings us another steampunk masterpiece. Inspired by the work of the nineteenth-century French illustrator Gerard, who worked under the pseudonym ‘Grandville’ and frequently drew anthropomorphic animal characters, it tells the story of detective Inspector LeBrock of Scotland Yard as he stalks a gang of murderers through the heart of Belle Epoque Paris.

In this alternative reality, France is the major world power and its capital is thronged with steam-driven hansom cabs, automatons and flying machines. The characters are mostly animals, though there is an underclass of humans, often referred to as ‘dough faces’, who resemble the ‘clear-line’ characters of Herge’s Tintin books.

Visually stunning, Grandville is a fantastical and audacious rollercoaster ride that will add to Talbot’s reputation as one of the best graphic novelists in the world.

The Review: After what some would describe as the ‘heavy’ nature of Alice in Sunderland, with his new project, Grandville, writer-artist-Doctor Bryan Talbot kicks off his shoes and delivers a no-nonsense steampunk adventure melding Rupert the Bear, Tintin and Kill Bill-styled action, with plenty of humour along the way – and it’s simply brilliant.

Quite apart from the stunning steampunk-inspired graphics there’s plenty of action, beautiful art and a horde of in-jokes for comics fans that don’t detract from overall adventure, as the unstoppable badger Inspector LeBrock takes on the devious French to expose a heinous plot that plugs straight into 9/11 conspiracy theories and more.

Well known for his attention to detail and fastidious art style, Bryan ensures his mystery plot has no holes, right down to the obvious silk ribbon in a typewriter used to write a mystery report by a murder victim LeBrock is called on to investigate in a rural England recently freed from French rule (no chance of reading the report from that). The in jokes are great: the drug addict ‘Snowy’ dreaming of Blue Lotus and more, and my favourite, the revelation that the dough-faced and odd-looking humans apparently originate in Angouleme (home of course to the world’s most recognized international annual comics event and major bande dessines museum in our world).

GrandvilleGrandville is a delight: you can read it as a fun, no-nonsense, rip-roaring adventure or re-read it for all the subtext Bryan’s woven into the tale. The central characters are heroic but endearing, the villains vile and well worth booing as they make their entrance.

With a every page a feast for the eye we have no hesitation is saying Grandville is highly recommended…

Grandville is published by Jonathan Cape and is on sale from 15th October 2009

More Reviews

“I love this comic. It’s big, bold, brash, insanely detailed and has badgers torturing frogs. There are steam powered carriages and robots, gratuitous violence, big explosions, lots of kicking, a decent ending and Inspector Brock finding a long, long way from Wind in the Willows…”
– Rich Johnston, Bleeding Cool

Web Links

Official Grandville Section on

Official Dark Horse Grandville homepage

Interviews with Bryan Talbot on Grandville:

• SteamPunk Magazine: Bryan Talbot on Bastable, Brass Goggles and badgers.

• Comics Bulletin: Creating an anthropomorphic thriller in that ol’ steampunk style

• Newsarama: The Grandville Tour: talking to Bryan Talbot

Categories: British Comics, British Comics - Books, British Comics - Graphic Novels, Reviews

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