Itís the start of the summer holidays and so Benny is off to stay with his Uncle Placid out in the country. Uncle Placid is a bodyguard by trade but has taken some time off so he and Benny can go fishing and relax. However, no sooner has Benny arrived when Uncle Placidís boss turns up with an urgent assignment for him - to accompany the finance minister of FŁrengrootsbadenschtein back to his own country with the plates for printing his countryís banknotes. Uncle Placid is assured itíll be an easy job, so taking Benny along wonít be a problem.
What none of the realise is that a gang of crooks are well aware of the impending transfer and are already in place to steal them, starting with a daring heist at the Central Bank where the plates are to be handed to the finance minister in a briefcase. And they almost get away with it but for a last minute intervention from Benny, which includes him speeding down the road after a fast car, ripping off the boot, and snatching the case.
Itís obviously going to be a more dangerous trip than first thought, but this doesnít appear to concern any of the adults that a small child is along for the ride. Benny even goes as far as to tell Uncle Placid several times about his astounding strength, but each time Uncle Placid is distracted and fails to hear. Naturally, itís Bennyís abilities that dig them out of trouble again and again as the crooks make more and more attempts to steal the case, before Uncle Placid and Benny finally deliver the rather ungrateful finance minister across the border intact.
Thereís a smidgen of peril here, but you know Bennyís not really going to come unstuck, and having his burly Uncle along for the adventure offers an interesting double act that could easily be explored further. The gags are good too, not least the final page where Bennyís only flaw shows itself at the worst possible moment. A well put together humorous adventure comic suited to any age group.
And if you liked that: Another adventure is available soon
By Marini & Desberg
Finally we get to learn the truth of the Scorpionís birth and what this means for the families that have held the wealth and power of Rome for centuries.
The Scorpion has been captured by the odious Tiberio and Mejai tries, but fails, to follow. With Hussar injured, the Scorpion must face his fate alone, and yet what he encounters is not what he expected, and he is instead propelled down a different path and headlong into a confrontation with the Trebaldis that will settle the question of his birth once and for all.
What with injuries, political manoeuvring, long-held grudges, leper guards and ever-deperate measures from all sides, this volume cranks up the tension all the way though to the final page. Cleverly crafted by Desberg and with fantastic art by Marini, this is one of comicdomís greatest books. The colouring alone contributes massively to the books atmosphere, so scenes such as the clash within St Peter's Basilica are all the more powerful. If youíre not reading it you should be.
And if you liked that: Desberg is also responsible for writing Cinebookís IR$
Scorpion Vol. 8, The : In The Name of the Son (Book)
By Guy Delisle
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Iíve enjoyed Guy Delisleís gag strip books, but hadnít yet dipped my toe into his travelogues, so thought Iíd start with Burma Chronicles as my Grandpa served out there during WW2 as a radar operator. His stories, some of which were shocking, some of which were touching, painted a picture of a country that I couldnít place in the modern world and certainly not against the news stories of its recent history. This seemed like a good way in, seeing the country through the eyes of a cartoonist as he adjusts to life there with his wife (working for an aid agency) and son.
Because the country was under military control while they were there itís a curious mix of the warmth and friendliness of its inhabitants and the more obscure and repressive nature of its controls and restrictions, such as the brutally mangled newspapers and magazines that are clipped and holed to remove anything the junta would object to.
Delisle tells his story in a diary-like manner, taking one or two pages to depict an experience in a comic strip format, and recording differences, similarities and surprises. The aim isnít to hit you with a punchline each time (although some situations deliver one) but to leave you with an impression of day-to-day life. As Delisleís wife is often working away on the aid projects he is left in charge (sort of - youíll see what I mean) of their infant son, and trips out onto the streets generate much interest amongst neighbours, but should he go out alone the same neighbours treat him as if heís invisible. He records what itís like to deal with the heat and humidity, how he copes with ex-pat socialising, and the coincidence of living a few streets away from Aung San Suu Kyi while she was still under house arrest. He also records his efforts to teach animation to some interested locals and how this almost backfires in a potentially devastating manner, to illustrate just how fragile the freedoms were at the time.
Itís not a book full of belly laughs, although there are plenty of humorous moments contrasting with the bleaker, more difficult ones. Delisleís observations paint a respectful picture of a people living in difficult times, offering an insightful look into a secretive country. Things may have changed in Burma now, but this is still an important and enlightening tale of one manís experiences of that moment in history.
And if you liked that: Guy Delisle has more travelogue books under his belt - look them up
By Rodolphe & Leo
I look forward to reading plenty of titles, but itís not often I get the buzz of excitement and anticipation that I did when I first saw there was to be a new Leo book. His Worlds of Aldebaran series is an audacious and compelling story of exploration coupled with an inventive speculation as to the possibilities and potential of life beyond our Earth. However, in Kenya, heíd be again looking at lifeís diversity but using what came before man on our own planet, and this time he would just be drawing the tale as Rodolphe would be providing the writing.
Set in 1940s colonial Kenya the story opens with a mixed group of nationalities on safari, where their arguments and arrogance look as if they will spill out into an utterly different story entirely, but Rodolphe is skilfully setting you up for the twist. The story then moves on to Mombasa and the arrival of a young woman, Katherine Austin, who is to teach at a local school, except itís clear from the start that sheís been tasked with more than just improving young minds. Unfortunately, it would appear sheís not the only one with an agenda, as two other teachers at the school just might be the eyes and ears of their respective governments or, perhaps, are just intrigued by the young Englishwoman and are just a little too keen for her company.
What solidifies our suspicions is when Katherine mentions the fact of the recent lost safari and ends up as the guest of one of the teachers, Mr Fuchs, on a flight out towards Kilimanjaro. Theyíre effectively hitching a lift with a pilot making a delivery to an eccentric Italian noble who has built a beautiful but all-but functionless palace out in the bush. Katherine later employs the same pilot to take her out again, but this flight reveals another surprise in the form of a desiccated Diatryma, a giant flightless prehistoric bird. Something very odd is going on on these African plains, but itís only when Katherine has a close encounter with a survivor of the missing safari that things that at first looked absurd begin to look plausible.
So itís a very different book to the Aldebaran series, and yet its historical setting in a colonial African country makes it feel other-wordly all the same. Katherineís a strong female character that drives the story forward with her tenacity, curiousness and courage, and itís all beautifully set up for maximum intrigue. I was particularly pleased to see theyíd added in a Indricotherium, but quite why and how is yet to be explained, although some hints have been dropped, not to mention a large hairy brute seen from the sky.
A problem with looking forward to a book so much is that high expectations can prove a disappointment. Well, not in this case, and I canít wait for the next one.
And if you liked that: Get hold of Leoís Aldebaran