Author’s Website: http://www.penelope-jolicoeur.com/
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Scott
The graphic novel Exquisite Corpse is a tried and true formula story. I have read variations on the theme before and avid readers probably will have as well, leaving no guesswork on how the story will play out. I found that this put a dampener on what otherwise could have been a well done piece of work, with a voice of its own.
The writing was reasonably well paced given the circumstances. Realistic dialogue, and a concentration on character, made this novel. Focusing on the singular viewpoint of the lead antagonist, Zoe, an underachiever by any stretch of the imagination, the story wraps her thoughts and emotions as the events of the book roll on by. In terms of a character study, this graphic work shines with its own idiosyncrasies.
The words, most probably translated from the French, are brisk and advance the plot seeming natural and reactionary – a change from the proactive novels that often plague the North American style. Coupled with the singular point of view, I found that the best way of describing the plot would be reaction, then action. European authors don’t usually place the characters in a proactive role, which is nice for a change of pace. The characters’ voices are true to the character defining a background quickly and then building on top of that. This happens in conjunction with the artwork, lending credence to the comics’ adage: drawing words and writing pictures.
The artwork is definitely individualized, with buildings seeming to defy gravity and logic, storefronts skewed, the overall perspective intentionally ignored and a sense of surrealism in the very stylistic representation of the characters in the novel. All of this seems necessary, to enhance the protagonist’s lack of knowledge of Parisian streets or of life outside of her neighborhood, and the world outside of Paris she is dying to explore. Reading the novel, I felt disoriented for the first few pages and then it settled into a natural rhythm, much like I believe Zoe feels, constantly being trapped in a world not of her making.
The characters, as mentioned, are very stylized, with a cartoonish bent to them, but all are unique and recognizable as individuals. I found the overall style to be particularly suited to the content, and actually held more of the pacing of panel to panel action than the plot – a good sign of picture and word complimenting each other on the page.
Any fans of European art, like that seen in the earlier issues of Heavy Metal or those who would like a change of pace from the North American graphic novel would like Exquisite Corpse. For those who enjoy a hearty character driven story, this is the graphic novel for you.