Jean-Philippe Kalonji’s debut graphic novel is meditative and violent, just as it is minimal and complex at the same time. Kalonji’s use of the visual to tell the story aids both the action sequences and quiet passages alike and dialogue that appears in the final text is spare and honed down to a fine point.
Of course it made me think of Akira Kurosawa, but I also saw surprisingly similarities to Moebius in the strength of the artistic storytelling if not actual techniques employed. There’s a flow to the book that’s very much defined by how the full-page panels push in and pull out of a scene, how the art rests on a split second. There’s enough of a link from the way that Kalonji constructs a face and body to the people that inhabit Jeff Smith’s comics that it’s called out on the back of the book, but part of me appreciates the former’s work just a bit more because it’s unafraid of the close-up, the detail shot that can sell a moment more than anything else while Smith (an extremely competent cartoonist) is very much dependent on full figures and traditional comics construction. I’ve not been this invigorated by a debut in a very long time, perhaps since Brandon Graham’s comics first wandered into my baleful gaze.