The Final Flight created and illustrated by Romain Hugault, story and dialogue by Romain Hugault and Régis Hautière, translated by Erik Svane, 45 pages of strip, US$10, Editions Paquet
This small album was a pleasant surprise when I found it on the shelves of Forbidden Planet in Newcastle. I don’t think I had seen it advertised anywhere. Paquet has only four English language books in print or in preparation.
The Final Flight tells the story of four flights in the Second World War by four pilots, one Japanese, one American, one German, and one a French volunteer for the Soviet Union. Each pilot is depicted sympathetically. Each story gives a different perspective on the wartime experience of pilots, as the four lives intersect and intertwine.
The sumptuous artwork of Romain Hugault lends elegance to the overall tone of fatalism in the story. And if I have a complaint, it is that everything here looks too beautiful. In real life, the injuries suffered by aircrew in the Battle of Britain were so hideous that they prompted the creation of modern plastic surgery. But in The Final Flight, death occurs in suddden explosions, and injuries are limited and easily hidden by a few clean white dressings. The lives depicted here are tragic, but never ugly – which may be Hugault’s point, as he stresses the human dignity of his characters.
This isn’t a particularly ambitious tale, but it is quietly effective, and affecting, in its own way.