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Grandville Bete Noire by Bryan Talbot

Grandville Bete Noire

by Bryan Talbot

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I'm not usually that big on anthropomorphic characters but the magnificent artwork, dynamic alternate-history steampunk setting and action-packed plot totally sucked me in. If you like subversive plots like V for Vendetta, you should appreciate Grandville.

Grandville Bete Noir is the third book (following Grandville and Grandville Mon Amour) in what will soon be a five-volume series of graphic novels. It can best be described as that you would dream after mixing The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Wind in the Willows, Midnight in Paris and psilocybin mushrooms. The Grandville of the titles is a nickname for Paris in this alternate university where the French rule the world and Paris is the center of all cultural and political activity. In this installment, someone is kidnapping all of the most prominent scientists and killing the most famous artists. (Be sure not to miss the afterward in which the author explains his inspiration for his Art War. It's an eye-opener.)

On my Series ranking scale¹ I give the Grandville series rating of three. The series has a substantial and evolving backstory and they are best read in order but readers without the inclination or access to previous books in the series will still be able to enjoy this book.

Hint: If you are looking for a copy of these books, check with your local library to see if they have access to Hoopla digital content.

¹ A Note on Series:Some people insist on reading series in order starting at the beginning. I believe that this is absolutely necessary with some series and unnecessary in others. In my reviews I assign books in a series a score of one to five in which the higher score denotes increased importance of reading the book in order. A series with returning villains, an ongoing story arc, and evolving family dynamics will rate higher than one where the plot in each book is totally unrelated to the others. As an example, a Nancy Drew book would be a one. There is no evolving story arc. Nancy hasn’t grown any older in fifty years and, face it, Ned is never going to propose to her. The Lord of the Rings, on the other hand, is a five. Reading the trilogy in order is essential to fully understanding and appreciating the story. One book picks up right where its predecessor leaves off and Fellowship of the Ring contains information that readers of The Two Towers really need to know. Besides, Tolkien originally wrote it as a single volume. ( )
  Unkletom | Oct 27, 2017 |
Grandville Bête Noire is the strongest Grandville story yet. Unlike the first two, Talbot isn't just playing with pulp tropes, but is taking much more from his personal interests to enhance the world-building and lore. His personal interest in art history (and art history conspiracies!) means it feels like Talbot's pouring a lot more heart into this story. There's also a big helping of warm humor to fill in the LeBrock & Co.'s sometimes-boring archetypal boots with real character. (See LeBrock's overwhelming and adorable discomfort at a formal dinner. The fact that I can attribute a word like 'adorable' to this heaping mass of muscle and testosterone is a good sign.)

[N.B. This review includes images, and was formatted for my site, dendrobibliography -- located here.]

Billie returns from Mon Amour as LeBrock's love interest. As with the other leading characters, a portion of the plot is spent individualizing her. I was really bored with her in the last book, where she's only differentiated from the first book's uninteresting love interest by name, so it was great to see her be her own character here.

The prologue's a little on-the-nose with its devious plotting: "Free schools and hospitals? The very idea! Education and health are not a natural right! They're a privilege that should be paid for! is how much of the dialogue reads for the 10 pages we spend with this volume's conniving, bloodthirsty aristocrats. While the villains are totally over-the-top, they don't boss their way around that much of the plot--and they're treated with so much more humor this time round.

For this round's conspiracy, Aristotle Krapaud -- or Mr. Toad from the Wind in the Willows -- is using a cabal of aristocrats and naive scientists to enact a military coup by mechanical means. With an army of automatons and quirky henchmen a la James Bond, Toad is attempting to control all of society by filling museums and pop culture with abstract expressionism. Another means of making the masses docile, apparently. Where-as Mon Amour never lets up from its gore and testosterone, Bête Noire revels in having fun with itself, which is exactly what I want from this series.

May we never forget Bubbles, our favorite lap-frog. RIP B-Bubbles. ( )
2 vote alaskayo | Nov 15, 2015 |
I read this for the Hugo ballot voting but I definitely want to find the previous volumes and read them. An alt universe with anthropomorphic animals and humans where the humans are second class citizens. The Victorian steampunk setting is fully developed and used throughout the book. LeBrock and his assistant go over to Paris to help with a murder investigation of an artist. I think what I liked the best was the afterword where the writer explained how a piece of history set this graphic novel in motion.
( )
  Glennis.LeBlanc | Jul 8, 2014 |
An excellent pulpy steampunk furry mystery graphic novel. That's a lot of adjectives, but all accurate...the hero is Detective-Inspector Lebrock of Scotland Yard, who happens to be an anthropomorphic badger in a society of anthropomorphic animals (and an underclass of 'doughfaces' who call themselves the odd name of 'human'). Automatons doing work, and attacking on order; several unexplained murders; and excellent artwork illustrating a story with surprising depth (for one that is so strongly genre(s)), particularly around social status. The introduction says Lebrock is supposed to be Bond-like - but I can't think of any Bond who would have spit out his soup with surprise when it was stone-cold (it was gazpacho, which he'd apparently never encountered...). More the old pulp mysteries, especially with the very British Detective-Inspector and his slightly more worldly but just as British sergeant - though the villain is quite like any of Bond's, and the murder methods are interestingly steampunky. Fun, and I'm looking for more Lebrock stories. I got this as an ebook in the 2013 Hugos packet. ( )
  jjmcgaffey | Jul 31, 2013 |

another in Talbot's alternate history of Grandville, where most people are anthropomorphised animals and England is only now recovering from two hundred years of French rule after defeat at Waterloo. As well as taking us to the dark heart of political conspiracy, with overtones of Tintin (and also, frankly, Dangermouse), Talbot reflects art history too in his distorted gaze; he refers in an afterword to the CIA's funding of Abstract Expressionism. It's a witty, absurd and also rather bleak story. ( )
  nwhyte | May 24, 2013 |
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The baffling murder of a famed Parisian artist in his locked and guarded studio takes the tenacious Detective Inspector LeBrock of Scotland Yard and his faithful adjunct, Detective Ratzi, into the cutthroat Grandville art scene to track the mysterious assassin. As the body count mounts and events spiral out of control, the investigation points to Toad Hall, where a cabal of industrialists and fat cats plot the overthrow of the French State by use of steam-driven automaton soldiers!… (more)

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