By Teresa Valero
Francoist Spain is always one of those interesting historical time-periods you see under-represented in the modern historical texts. Whether it be the official Spanish stance, or simply how the rest of the world sees the period, it almost like 40 years of harsh fascism simply vanished in 1975 when the country shifted to democracy. perhaps it’s because of Franco’s stance of being “neutral” during the war, or secretly a Axis Ally like most “neutral states were, but I remember first going down the rabbit hole on the topic after watching Pan’s labyrinth many moons ago. What a complicated time, one that it seems nobody has honestly come to terms with as of yet, even in 2021.
This is the setting for today’s review – Contrapaso – 1. The Children of Others by Teresa Valero. When all information is controlled by the state, a series of suspicious murders puts journalists in a particularly bad place – do the objectively tell the news, or should they tow the line and do what the party says, usually hiding what really happened? When a conspiracy is uncovered that puts members of the higher echelons of Franco’s regime as complicit, what should they do? This is the story of a hard-boiled, very cynical, crime beat journalist (and sometimes detective) named Emilio Sanz, and his “assistant” Léon Lenoir, a younger man basically hired as his replacement. Hopefully what they find doesn’t take them in too deep!
“Madrid, winter of 1956. Franco’s fascist dictatorship controls the press and maintains the fiction of an idyllic nation. Faced with the Regime’s attempts to cover up the country’s most sordid crimes, two journalists from the crime beat, the jaded veteran Emilio Sanz and the young and intrepid Léon Lenoir, seek to reveal the truth. Confronted by a wave of unexplained murders, the duo sets out to uncover the dark secret connecting them, buried in a cruel past. Brilliantly written and illustrated by Teresa Valero, Sanz and Lenoir’s investigation plunges us headfirst into an era and society as dark and as violent as it is full of hope. A bracing journalistic thriller revealing the lengths the Francoist regime was willing to go to in its attempts to stifle any form of dissent.”
Apart from the interesting setting, this comic is a VERY well done crime thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time I was reading it. It has a wonderful art style, and reminded me more of something akin to a noir -infused Hercule Poirot or Columbo story to any sort of modern procedural detective drama. Being that I grew up watching things like that when I was younger, means that I had a great appreciation for it. With the added threat of potential murder or political assassination if they dig just a tad too deep, or even dare report one of the murders as anything short of natural causes, the stakes are very high in this story. If and when I see that volume two of this is released, I definitely plan to get it and find out what happens.
For somebody not really that much into these sorts of stories, I really liked it. With the background of the setting, the overall plot, and complexity of the criminal conspiracy going, this stands out from your typical crime comics in just about every way possible. Europe Comics almost always picks great titles to bring over, and this is no exception.
If you would be interested in 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.