Bruno Marchand doesn’t seem to think so. His graphic novel "Quelques pas vers la lumiere" ("Steps Towards the Light"), recently published in a German edition by All-Verlag, introduces us to a young girl, Marianne, who lives in Paris in 1960 – 15 years after the end of World War II. She works at the Jardin des Plantes (Paris’ botanical garden) and seems to be a rather ordinary young woman – a little dreamy maybe – who likes to think a lot about life. Considered more closely, her thoughts are quite deep, as Marianne likes to look behind the curtain. She wants to know the answers to the really "big" questions, - you know – the ones that have bothered us all at one point in our lifes: Is there a greater design? How about destiny? What’s the pattern behind all our actions? Are we dominated by chance? Where do we come from, where are we headed? And what about the human "mind"? Are there spiritual connections with objects or people which we don’t realize, but maybe suspect or even feel? What is the meaning of it all? These are the questions troubling Marianne. Especially since she realized the patterns in her own life. This isn’t about the miraculous 7th year: Her life seems to take a major turn evey 5 years plus 7 months. The events aren’t always tragic – but sometimes they are. The next turning point is right ahead, and there’s another thing: strange and random incidents keep mixing up her life. Like now when she incidentally meets an old wartime comrade of her dead English father – twice. You might ask: Is this much coincidence even possible? Be honest: How often have you met someone you hadn’t seen for years – all of a sudden in a public place like a railway station or the tube? How big is the possibility to cross paths with someone among thousands or even millions of people at this one place at this one specific point in time? Rather small, one might say. But still it has happened to me quite a few times. You could also ask yourself how often you have – unsuccessfully – tried to push your life into a certain direction and all of a sudden a minor thing happened and started the change. Whenever we follow these hints, we are "in the flow". This is what happens to Marianne. The stranger she meets has a message for her from her dead father. A conspicuous notebook that was originally meant to be handed over to her is lost and must be found. For Marianne this is important as it might turn a diffrent light on her father’s past. In his home country, Great Britain, he is still under the suspicion of being a traitor to the nation. So Marianne decides to follow her destiny and sets out on a travel accompanied by her new friend. It opens up new perspectives and brings her closer to her past. And by the way: Marianne has "super powers", too. A very special technique allows her to find lost objects – and sometimes even people. She doesn’t quite know how it works, but uses her ability whenever her search meets a dead end – fueled by her desire to bring the truth to the light.
The story is staged before the historical background of Europe in the 1960s – a point in time when next to the economic boom many questions raised by World War II still hovered above everyday lilfe, unanswered.
Bruno Marchand develops his narrative quite slowly and takes a lot of time to evaluate life’s truths. As his readers we are bound to follow his special rhythm. He meticulously tells his protagonist’s stories characterizing them rather concisely. This doesn’t leave much room for interpretation and it probably doesn’t mean to either. Flashbacks and dialogues are mostly used to define Marianne’s relationship with her father – and her own past. We can’t however expect to find great answers to the big qustions at the end of this first volume – as we have only covered one third of the journey.
Marianne’s story is beautiful and straight – Marchad’s way of storytelling resembles his artistc style. In this he consequently follows in the footsteps of frech-belgian comic books. His panels are reduced to the essential – "la ligne claire" – the clear line. Unfortunately this doesn’t quite work out in all of his scenes, some of which are rather detailed despite his use of the clear line. Especially at the beginning of the book there are some panels showing a crowd or a panoramic view of the city that don’t quite hit the mark. This isn’t really astonishing, as there’s probably no other craft that needs more practise than the art of reduction. The further the story develops, the better Marchand manages this task.
His colours, however, are coherent and harmonious throughout and convey a very tranquil and composed atmosphere, in which the events take place in a consistent flow. Warm earthy yellow and brown tones and an almost "warm" blue, – tending towards yellow or turquoise – support the story’s mood. The only thing I find worthy of criticism is the cover art. As someone who sees a lot of book titles every day, I think there must have been a better way to provide the series with a much more expressive cover.
Still the book is very recommendable. Readers who prefer the reduced style of the classic french-belgian "ligne claire" will like it – and of course those among you who are inclined to think about the same questions the author asks.