Grandville: Detective-Inspector Lebrock

Bryan Talbot is an extraordinary graphic novelist, willing and able to turn his narrative and artistic talent to a vast array of genres and styles. We remember him most fondly, however, for his moments of breathtaking science fiction: taking over Pat Mills’ Nemesis the Warlock from Kevin O’Neill in British science fiction anthology 2000AD; and his dimension-leaping revolutionary hero Luther Arkwright.

While Alice in Sunderland is a more adventurous and challenging piece of work, we were excited to see Talbot returning to steampunk in Grandville. In fact, in true Talbot style, to label it as steampunk is to do it a disservice. This book pulls the genre pigeonholes off the wall, hacks them to pieces, grinds them to sawdust then throws them to the wind. Instead it’s his influences that leap out from the page: from Tintin to Tarrantino, Sherlock Holmes to Rupert the Bear, Talbot wears them on his sleeve.

Detective-Inspector Lebrock of Scotland Yard is called to a sleepy English village to investigate the apparent suicide of eminent English diplomat Raymond Leigh-Otter. What has fooled the local plods, Lebrock sees as a subtle cover-up, littered with clues that shout murder. With Leigh-Otter’s own shady past obscuring a clear view of events preceding the murder, Lebrock and his assistant set off for Paris to hunt down the killers, unravelling a plot full of international political intrigue as they go.

Talbot’s France is a post-Industrial Revolution empire, extrapolated through to a Victorian-inspired modern day. Steam power fuels this world-leading superpower, whose success is held together by war and corruption. But what has this got to do with the murder of an English gentlemen?

There’s perhaps one more thing to mention about this topsy-turvey world: animals dominate. Living side by side with humans and having taken on humanoid shapes and speech, it’s the animals that play all the lead roles. The humans (or ‘dough faces’ as they’re colloquially known) aren’t completely out of the picture but they fulfil servile, menial roles like porters and bellboys.

The resulting story is a fast-paced and intelligent adventure. Talbot doesn’t hold back on the force and violence and neither does his detective, who’s either got carte blanche to torture and murder his own way through the clues or doesn’t care and does it anyway. It’s a brutal vision that Talbot handles with flair.

Frankly we can’t recommend this book enough. As an intelligent adventure story we’ve seen little that’d been as good as this of late. It’s a thrill a minute ride crammed with in-your-face action and a badger in the leading role. A phenomenal return to Talbot’s roots that maintains the high levels of sophistocated narrative and subtexts that we expect of him, but still woven into a gripping adventure.

Grandville: riot

More books by Bryan Talbot:
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Watch a Grandville trailer:

More books by Bryan Talbot:
[catlist orderby=title numberposts=-1 id=375 order=asc]

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