Christophe Blain, Author . NBM/ComicsLit $13.95 (80p) ISBN 978-1-56163-349-4

Young oceanographer George Guilbert has volunteered as a helmsman for the French navy. On board the giant battleship Bellicose , he meets writer Louis Bleno and the dim but well-meaning coxswain Sam Nordiz. The ship sets out in response to a possible attack, and Guilbert and Bleno, being new sailors, become violently seasick. Nordiz suggests they visit the ship's nether regions, where there's less rocking. Though the sailors are forbidden to enter this area, Nordiz and Bleno become fascinated with it. They check out the reduction gears, which are exceedingly sensitive and crucial to the ship's functioning. Naturally, when one character drops a pencil sharpener into the gears, disaster strikes (or at least the characters think it does). Nothing much happens in Blain's anticlimactic story: readers expect a great tragedy, but everything turns out alright. Blain suggests that our imaginations inflate events and our roles in them, while the rest of the world is really paying attention to something else. While the narrative is fairly mundane, the art is fascinating: spare, expressive without being too worked over, and intensely colored to indicate locations and moods. The area above deck is portrayed in grays and blues, for example, and below deck, everything is acid yellow. While the three main characters are unremarkable, Bellicose steals the show in terms of complexity and depth. Blain skillfully captures Bellicose 's sheer hugeness, where men can walk around for days on end without knowing where they are. Blain ultimately seems to be paying homage to the passing of a certain kind of military vessel and the adventure it affords ordinary men. (2003)

Reviewed on: 11/10/2003
Release date: 03/01/2003
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