Of Cloak and Fangs Vol.12, If It Isn’t You…, by Alain Ayroles & Jean-Luc Masbou – Book Review by Fred Patten
by Pup Matthias
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
De Cape et de Crocs. Acte 12, Si Ce N’Est Toi…, by Alain Ayroles & Jean-Luc Masbou.
Paris, Delcourt, November 2016, hardbound €14,50 (47 [+3] pages).
The Fred Patten & Lex Nakashima plan to bring you the best French-language talking-animal comics has a real winner this time: Of Cloak and Fangs. Vol. 12, If It Isn’t You…, the twelfth & final(!) volume of De Cape et de Crocs, the 17th-century swashbuckling series parodying Cyrano de Bergerac, Molière, Montesquieu, and Co. that has been running since 1995.
Confusingly, volume 10 was originally announced as the end of the series. The main characters through vol. 10 are two wandering gentleman-swordsmen, Armand Raynal de Maupertuis (French fox) and Don Lope de Villalobos y Sangrin (Spanish wolf). They are introduced in 17th-century Venice, then a powerful Mediterranean nation. In the first volume they are betrayed and sentenced to serve as galley-slaves in Venice’s navy, where they meet fellow-slave Eusèbius, the cutest bunny-rabbit in the world. They escape, bringing Eusèbius with them. Eusèbius becomes their loyal squire-valet for the rest of the series, through adventures in Europe and on the Moon; so naïve and self-effacing that you almost forget he’s there. Volume 10 appeared to wrap everything up with a happily-ever-after ending, but the ten albums never said what the cutest bunny-rabbit in the world was doing as a Venetian galley-slave when they met him. Did readers demand an explanation? Volumes 11 and 12 answer the question.
Act 11, Twenty Months Earlier, begins as a pastiche of Dumas’ The Three Musketeers. Eusèbius, young and naïve, sets out in the French countryside to join the famous Cardinal’s Guard in Paris. The adventures he has are partly a parody of what d’Artagnan goes through at the beginning of The Three Musketeers, and partly original. Eusèbius is not the only anthropomorphic animal in 17th-century France. Others include a bear thief posing as a gypsy’s trained bear, and a duck nobleman almost buried under one of those elaborate wigs the nobility of Louis XIII’s time wore. Despite Eusèbius’ efforts to be an outstanding Cardinal’s Guard, he makes two powerful enemies: the Grand Veneur (Royal Huntsman), a human nobleman who aspires to let nothing stop him from replacing the Cardinal as the King’s prime minister; and Monsieur Fagotin, a deadly black-clad chimpanzee assassin.
Act 12, If It Isn’t You… finishes the prologue. Eusèbius is kidnapped and taken to the Court of Miracles (see Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame) where he finds that the king of the Court is his long-missing twin brother Fulgence – an exact double, but without his scruples. All the supporting characters from t. 11 are here: the Grand Veneur, Fagotin, Brioché the puppeteer, d’Ortolan the friendly Musketeer, The Bastille jailkeeper’s sweet daughter, and so on. The album’s ending is known from the beginning; Eusèbius will be condemned to a life sentence as a galley slave. Ayrolles & Masbou tell an engrossing adventure as to how he gets there.
NOTE: The following video features the creators talking about their series. It is in French. You can translate it to English if you want through YouTube’s Auto Translate – Matthias
Ayrolles pulls out all the stops in writing this final album. It’s not easy French. Be prepared for obscure and obsolete words. You had better read this at your computer, ready to pause at least once on each page to Google on some French word that you haven’t seen before.
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