REVIEW: Balbuzar (2022)

A Graphic Novel / Storybook by Geìrard Moncomble

Ablaze Publishing has been doing a great job this year with such titles as Space Pirate Captain Harlock and The Cimmerian. They specialize on localizing both European comics and Japanese manga, which is slightly different than many of the big publishers right now. Now that these big flagship titles are in place, it’s cool to see them branch out with something like Balbuzar by Geìrard Moncomble. On one hand, I’d consider this a graphic novel, on the other it’s designed and presented as a storybook, but I would hesitate to say it’s explicitly a kid’s book by any means. While not bloody or vulgar, the book is somewhat wordy with allusions to non-kid-friendly things such as the slave trade or Poppy smuggling. That said, I’m sure an older kid would enjoy the hell out it.

“In the Sarboucane sea, Balbuzar the pirate reigns supreme. He attacks, plunders, sinks, and ransoms everything that comes within his reach. Savage, cruel, formidable, certainly, Balbuzar is; but also with a certain bonhomie, and a great sense of justice. He is in harmony with the sea, the islands, the wind, the rocks. Around him, birds, always. Men, women, children…they all love him. For he is free as the air. But now the Empress Pepita XIII is worried about her state of affairs, and Balbuzar’s constant plundering. She sends against him her best officer, the Commodore, at the head of an armada. He represents force, order, law. Arrogant, domineering, relentless. And sure to be the one who will clean the Sarboucane sea. Balbuzar and the Commodore clash. Two exceptional sailors, two sharp warriors. The fight begins, shattering, tumultuous.”

The artwork in this book is exquisite, while character designs are vaguely similar to something like The Nightmare Before Christmas, every page is put together like a vibrant Renaissance painting. Half of the time, the story became second fiddle, as I feasted my eyes on the rich colors and crazy backgrounds of the story. I quite enjoyed the increasing absurdity in the story as it moved forward. At one point, The Commodore has to get a new ship commissioned. which ends up being this preposterously large multi-deck galleon that defies every law of physics to simply exists in just about every way. When all seems hopeless, Balbuzar uses his unmeasurable wit to take the ship down in an ingenious way that rivals the destruction of the Death Star as most unlikely take-down ever.

This was a fun book, and especially great if you are into pirate stories in any way. The format of being an “adult picture book” of sorts was interesting, and different than any graphic novel I’ve read in a while. In many ways, it’s basically an illustrated short story, where the author has gone the extra mile to make the illustrations memorable as he possibly can.

If you would like a copy of this for yourself, click HERE

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.

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