Roi Ours, by Mobidic – Book Review by Fred Patten
by Pup Matthias
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Thanks to Lex Nakashima for ordering this French cartoon album from Amazon.fr and making it available to me for this review.
In a prehistoric Mesoamerican world, a human village is ruled by the animal gods and goddesses: the Jaguar god, the Fox god, the Stag god, and many others. The village is cursed by the Caïman goddess; to lift the curse, the chief is ordered by the tribal shaman to offer his own daughter, Xipil, as a sacrifice. Xipil is bound to the Caïman’s totem pole and abandoned to be eaten.
But it’s not the Caïman goddess who comes first, but the Bear god. “You look a little young to me for an offering… and not very meaty! Has she already eaten all her own priestesses?” “The shaman said that she is demanding greater sacrifices.” “Well, he should have offered his own daughter. Do you want to stop the massacre? Or do you prefer to go through with it?” “My father said…” “Your father is an imbecile! He’s not listening to the signs any more. I’m telling you that the Caïman is making fun of all of you; she’ll never raise her curse on you. You’ll have to do something else. Go tell your father.”
The Bear god, who is also the King of all the bears on Earth, doesn’t listen when Xipil tells him that no one will listen to her. She goes back, but her own fiancé is about to kill her for running away from being a sacrifice. She has no place to go any more, so the Bear King takes her back with him to the land of the animal gods. But the other gods despise her as a mortal. The only way that she can stay there is to marry the bear and become an animal goddess, despite the others who call her “Princess Hairless Primate” and worse. (“Can you imagine what their children will look like?”) The “Mother of Monkeys”, a female gorilla, is the only one who befriends her and prepares her for her wedding.
What happens would give away a major spoiler. But after that, the bears of Earth need a new King. And Xipil recognizes her duty enough that she is ready to become an active Bear Queen, despite the opposition of the rest of the animal Olympus. The only one to offer to support her is the Caïman goddess, who has been resentful of the “stealing of her sacrifice”. She’ll support Xipil, but only for a tremendous price. A very bloody human price…
Mobidic (story, art, coloring) has admitted in an interview that his name is a pseudonym (“And I haven’t even read Moby Dick!”). Roi Ours is his first album. He prepared it to be published as two albums, but Delcourt thought that the story worked better as a single 110-page hardcover. This is not a usual animalière book. The animals may talk, but there is very little humor. They are all realistically drawn. I like Mobidic’s cartoony yet realistic art style. The “Valhalla of feathers and scales”, as a French review calls the land of the animal gods, is a fascinating place. There is considerable human nudity, and lots of blood and death. But it’s a well-developed, excellent story. There will almost certainly never be an English-language edition.