From an era before capes and tights, when ordinary men battled evil criminal masterminds with little more than their fists and brains, one of the most diabolical villains ever created returns. When the bad guy is evil without an ounce of redemption, what chance do good men have? What chance do any of us have? Find out in THE WRATH OF FANTOMAS, a graphic novel from Titan Comics and Static Press, on store shelves now.
Writer: Olivier Bocquet
Artist: Julie Rocheleaue
Publisher: Titan Comics
Release Date: February 13th, 2019
Cover Price: $29.99
Previously in THE WRATH OF FANTOMAS: The character of Fantomas first appeared in 1911 in a self-titled novel by Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre. From 1911 to 1913, the pair collaborated on thirty-two novels featuring the ultimate villain. Several years after Souvestre died, Allain resurrected the series and wrote an additional eleven novels. The character has multiple movies based on his exploits, stage plays, television shows, comic books and more. He has been cited inspiration for characters from The Shadow to The Phantom Limb. The character is unrepentant and portrayed as having no remorse about whom his actions injure.
EVIL INCARNATE HAS A NAME
Saturday, December 28th, 1895 and gendarme Juve has stepped from the bright streets of Paris into a darkened room and experienced, for the first time, a full screen moving picture in the form of a cinematograph. Little does he realize that simple decision will have an impact that will change his life. As he and the audience chuckle at the images flickering on the screen, a woman rushes through the streets, the young child in tow, screaming for help. Directed into the small theater, she begs Juve to help her. The Devil is after her, and he intends to kill her and her son. Moving them to a more secluded spot, the young policeman tries to ascertain exactly what is happening. The woman tells him again that an inhuman monster is pursuing them and indents to kill the two of them. She tells the officer he must swear to watch over and protect her son until she returns, but as screams come from the darkened cinema room, she knows it is too late. Throwing her son to him, she uses his name, which he had yet to offer her, and rushes from the coming danger. Juve hides the boy and fights through the panicked crowd, following the woman, only to see her shot in the dim light of the room. Drawing down on the attacker, he sees a man wearing a leather facemask and a full black hood. They fire simultaneously, each causing the other injury. The first to rise, the mysterious man begins his escape. Jube calls out, asking his identity. He hears the answer, Fantomas. Thus begins a conflict between a man of justice and a man of injustice. The story picks up again, sixteen years later, August 21, 1911, the morning Fantomas is scheduled to die at the hands of lady guillotine. But will he? Could they have caught the most evil criminal in France? When the truth is uncovered it will send Inspector Juve and the young man who was once a target of that evil on a bloody chase in which they s[end a harrowing month attempting to track down the evilest man in all of France, and not everyone will come away unscathed.
REMARK ABOUT THE BOOK, POSSIBLY A DESCRIPTION
While the story is inspired by the Fantomas novels, I know parts of the first but I’m unsure about the rest, published over one hundred years ago, writer Olivier Bocquet (FRNK, Snow Piercer) manages to keep his rendition fresh and entertaining. This edition is taken from the original French print and translator Edward Gauvin does an excellent job of tackling and overcoming the language barrier. Bocquet writing flows well, and while it has a hint of a modern meter to it, it does not, at any point, come off as hokey or melodramatic. He sets up these characters like a master stage designer and while you may not feel sorry for them, you will certainly feel something. These are adventures in the vein of Sherlock Holmes and Watson in their battles against Moriarty. It is odd, however, to read about a main character who is so evil. There is no mustache twirling, no grand gestures of superiority, just a hard cold, bloodthirsty nature. While Jack the Ripper is credited with bringing the idea of the serial killer to the fore, Fantomas takes it a step further and does not hide behind insanity or a tragic story. He is evil. He is ruthless. He will not be stopped. He is an unrelenting criminal. Bocquet shows that a character who is just plain evil can be just as interesting as the one who blames others for his deeds.
Bocquet’s illustrator for this volume is Julie Rocheleaue (Tommy l’enfant-loup, Deuxième etage de l’océan) a Montreal based illustrator and animator. She has a wonderful style of art that makes for a visually stunning read. She eschews the use of lined panel borders, instead allowing the images to float freely beside one another, thus allowing your eye to move freely. Her style at first hits the eye as something of a caricature, but it becomes so well done that you accept it with little concern and it becomes the world of Fantomas, a world where masters of disguise steal the Mona Lisa and tongues are cut out of one’s head and served with while still steaming from the preparation.
BOTTOM LINE: A WONDERFULLY UNIQUE AND EXCITING STORY
Yes, I did just call a graphic novel based off a series of book published one hundred years ago unique. Fantamos is a criminal without an ethical compass, save the one that points him to greater riches and personal survival. You are not presented with a tortured past, a broken childhood, or any of a dozen excuses for the evil deeds he performs. He is greedy, he wants power and wealth and he will get it. Full stop. It is refreshing to see. So many modern villains make you feel sorry for them or sympathize with them, Fantomos simply is. It is a great story with solid and fully realized protagonists and a vile antagonist. This one should be read with the lights off.
Well, maybe with just one light on.
The Wrath of Fantomas
A rousing adventure in a vein not normally seen by today's American audiences. Action packed and merciless, The Wrath of Fantamos should steal its way into your collection as soon as possible.