A Graphic Novel by Pierre-Paul Renders, Denis Lapière & art by Adrián Huelva
Post-apocalyptic stories are a dime-a-dozen anymore – you can’t move through the menus of any streaming service without stumbling across a lot of them. It’s probably because of the world’s recent bout with the Covid-19 Global Pandemic and fears that we may or not be living in our very own authoritarian dystopia that fuel such stories, but it could reach saturation point soon. It takes something really special to cut through the proverbial chaff (I’m looking at you, endless zombie stuff) and reveal the succulent kernels of good storytelling hidden away. I feel that I may have stumbled onto one of those very stories today when I read U4, a new comic series by Pierre-Paul Renders, Denis Lapière & Adrián Huelva, published by one of my favorite publishing houses, Europe Comics. The interesting thing about this series is that it is split into five volumes, a fact that may not seem too surprising until you understand that each volume of the first four tell separate but interlocking stories that ultimately merged together in the fifth and final volume. The first I had the pleasure of reading was Koridwen.
“‘My name is Koridwen. I’m the last survivor of a hamlet in Brittany. Before she died, my mother told me about a strange trunk left by my dear grandmother, who was something of a witch. Inside, I found an incredible letter that predicts a magical fate and a crucial mission. But I’m troubled by the similarities between this prediction and the message Khronos sent out just before the internet shut down… This meeting is where I’ll find out who I really am…’
You choose which volume to read first. The first four are parallel stories, so it doesn’t matter which one you start with. But you must finish with Khronos, where the four threads are finally brought together.”
At first, I wasn’t sure what this book was going to be all about, at the very beginning it almost seemed fairly similar to something such as Z for Zachariah, a classic in the genre. I was sure we were going to get the story of a lone girl trying to survive on a farm and the aftermath of some kind of huge cataclysm, probably coming toe to toe with some kind of evil interloper. Suddenly, the plot veers into the territory of establishing that the main character is following magical premonitions as told to her through a Celtic fairy tale passed down from her grandmother. Before she realizes that she is acting out every single section of said fairy tale in such a way that she starts to realize that it’s not mere coincidence that things are falling into place the way they are.
With the promise of the ability to time travel dangled in front of her like a carrot on a stick Koridwen makes a lot of tough choices in order to try to move herself and her special needs cousin Max, to what she hopes is a better life. They pack up everything they would need to make it to Paris with the vague promise of possibly meeting up with old friends met on an MMORPG similar to World of Warcraft. The whole story plays around with concepts such as time travel, mysticism, horror, coming of age, and your standard post-apocalyptic survival stuff In such a way that I haven’t really seen anything like it.
The artwork can be grim sometimes but retains somewhat of an illustrated children’s story sort of vibe that you generally see in things like Disney movies. In some ways this gives the story a little bit of innocence where a lot of post-apocalyptic fiction veers heavily into the darkness of the situation surrounding whatever character that is placed in that predicament. I enjoyed both the storyline and the artwork lot, and we’ll probably try to seek out more works by some of the creative staff in the future. The good thing is that with Europe Comics I have a way to easily look at other works that various authors they work with have released on their website, so that shouldn’t be too hard.
It’s honestly hard to give this a complete review at the moment because I’ve only read 1/5 of the total storyline that this comic is planned for. As a standalone, the story does move fairly well and wraps up in a pretty good place for what I assume is going to be the climactic final act. I just need to get ahold of more volumes of this to see where any other characters are going and what their paths are leading to. I am fairly certain that one of those characters has already run into our heroine by the end of this book, and since I have access to another book with a character that looks eerily similar to him on the cover, I feel like that will be a great way to see how these characters intertwine. European comics are always something special for me because of the way they are written and the fact that they don’t fall into the same superhero tropes that almost every American comic sticks to. this is no exception, and I applaud the creative team for trying to do something different with the post-apocalyptic fiction genre and a novel take on episodic comic releases. I will definitely be reading more of this and I highly recommend you do as well.
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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.