Monday, 7 May 2007

Review: The Professor’s Daughter

The Professor’s Daughter by Joann Sfar (story) and Emmanuel Guibert (art), 1997 (as La fille du professeur), translated by Alexis Siegel, First Second Books, May 2007, 60 pages of strip, US$16.95

The heroine is a double murderess. The undead walk. Scores of royal guardsmen are slaughtered. The Queen is kidnapped by a three-thousand year-old monster. A decent old man dies a slow lingering death.

Yes, it’s the romantic comedy of the year. Or would be, if it hadn’t been first published ten years ago.

This sort of Arsenic and Old Lace tone is very hard to get right. Like a soufflé, it will collapse if not prepared exactly right. Fortunately, Sfar and Guibert prove to be capable chefs. Sfar’s storyline is sprightly and bubbly, maintaining a hectic pace while still allowing for moments of reflection. Guibert’s exquisite watercolour art manages to be soft and sharp at the same time, imparting real expression to the faceless hero through body language, and creating an authentically fin de siècle ambience.

Siegel’s translation is mostly invisible, and the new (oddly uncredited) lettering fits the art well. As we have come to expect from First Second, the paper stock, printing and general design add up to a handsome package.

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