A Graphic Novel by Florent Ruppert & Jérôme Mulot
The first thing I noticed when reading this book, was the vague similarities between this story and a horror sci-fi manga series written and illustrated by Hitoshi Iwaaki called Parasyte. The resemblance to that story is only at the vaguest of terms, but it really piqued my interest and made me excited to find out how a French writer would handle similar themes. The basic premise is that our world has been visited by some force called “Whols” which look like elegant “noodley” beings that largely live in harmony with humans. However, it seems like there have been cases of them attacking or killing humans leading to a response from police and military that has angered people that want them to be seen as equal to humans. Orsay is an odd case, because whilst on a trip to Paris, he is attacked by a Whol while trying to save some kids, and is given the “powers” of one, meaning his hands are now swirling masses that can elongate and change shape.
“Nineteen-year-old Orsay lives an uneventful life in the French countryside, until the day he gains extraordinary powers in his hands after an encounter with a mysterious creature known as a whol. On a trip to Paris in search of a cure, he meets and falls for Basma, a passionate activist for whols’ rights. But Orsay isn’t convinced that whols should be considered equal to humans. Especially once Melek, another human with the same powers, embarks on a murderous rampage to avenge those she sees as her kin.”
I was assuming this would go into the tired trope of having Orsay become the one Whol/person hybrid that fights the others and it would turn into Dragonball Z basically. That worked for things like Parasyte being almost 40 years old, but its been done before multiple times. Thankfully, I was wrong and the book is mostly about the relationship between Whols and humans, and whether the two can co-exist. In this world, Whols are not understood and mis-treated. Law enforcement routinely pushes them around, and if not compliant they are killed with water cannons. Many don’t think they are sentient or understand what is happening, while other s would like equal rights for them. This puts Orsay and his friends and other hybrids in the place of becoming freedom fighters for the Whols, something Orsay has no desire to do at first. But something changes in him by the end of the story, so we’ll see what happens in future volumes.
What sets this apart from other similar stories is the crazy psychedelic aspect to it. There are times where the characters “communicate” with each other or the Whols and enter this altered state of consciousness where time runs differently and everything is a big swirling mass of color and shape. these sections are VERY interesting and make me excited to see where the story will go in the future.
I enjoyed this a lot more than I initially thought I would, and it definitely lived up to, and even surpassed, my expectations. As usual Europe Comics has chosen an intriguing comic that stands apart from other western books due to its mix of action, violence, and story. It knows how to ramp up the tension when it needs to, as well as step back and explore the minds of the various characters – striking this balance makes it feel more “special” than other books.
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NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.