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The Bloody Streets of Paris GN
Adapted by Jacques Tardi
Published by ibooks; $17.95 USD

Detective fiction is making something of a comeback in comics right now, so this review seems right for the times. While you might be able to find more exotic material in the sub-genre, there is something to be said for the well crafted, although somewhat formulaic tale to be found here. The Bloody Streets of Paris is French artist Jacques Tardiís adaptation of the 1942 Leo Malet crime novel 120 rue de la Gare and it stands as a classic example of crime comics done right.

Nestor Burma is a private investigator who joined the French army in the early days of the Second World War, and has just been discharged from a POW camp and has returned to Nazi-occupied France. Not the friendliest place for a private investigator to be, where the Gestapo hold the power of life and death over an entire populace. Still, a mystery that starts with an amnesiac prisoner in the camp and a mysterious woman lead him into a larger intrigue that the eternally curious Burma is doggedly determined to solve.

While the book is a little slow to start, it sets the mood and introduces a host of characters (some of which are not developed in this novel, but probably figure into the Nestor Burma series). Tardiís minimalist style for faces is surprisingly effective and dramatic. This is especially true of Tardiís representation of Nestor Burma as the archetypal 1940s PI character: sarcastic, street-smart, tough and loyal beyond comprehension. Unfortunately, the work here doesnít present a variety of different appearances for women. I was a little disappointed to see that two of the major female characters in this story were nearly identical. However, I would say that overall, his character design in this novel is distinctive, animated, and at times, even comical.

However, the real beauty of the artwork is the depiction of Paris itself. This is not the pristine, tourist-friendly Paris you see on postcards. In Tardiís Paris, entropy rules. The streets are littered, the walls plastered with graffiti and propaganda, the buildings dark and in disrepair. The bleakness of Tardiís efforts here bring the feeling of the widespread depression and dread that came with the defeat and occupation of France. Even more impressive is that we only see the Nazis and their actions from a remote distance, but that their presence is still felt. One needs only look at some of the propaganda posters and scrawled swastikas on the walls to remind you how dire the situation in Paris really was at the time. It was subtle, but chilling.

Tardiís art alone makes this an instant classic, as he communicates the mood of one of his countryís darkest hours, and as he brings life and reality to a classic character. Paris will never look the same to you again. Grade: 4/5

-- Michael Paciocco



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