Panique au Zoo; Une Enquête de Poulpe et Castor Burma, by Frédéric Bagères (story), Marie Voyelle (art), Jerôme Alvarez (colors) – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

Panique au Zoo; Une Enquête de Poulpe et Castor Burma, by Frédéric Bagères (story), Marie Voyelle (art), Jerôme Alvarez (colors).
Paris, Éditions Delcourt, June 2018, trade paperback, €23,95 (187 [+ 5] pages), Kindle €16,99.

Fred Patten and Lex Nakashima strike again!

“Built in 1740, at the far northern end of the isle, the Canon Zoo is the oldest and greatest zoo in the world. Founded in the XVI century by the monk Sylvestre Marie, it is today managed exclusively by its occupants.

“Aimed at an instructive goal, it offers its visitors, through its presentation of natural habitats, the chance to see how they have lived, over the centuries to the present, “animals in a state of nature”.” The sign is defaced with a graffiti-scrawl saying, “Obey!”

The first pages, a general meeting in the director’s office (a tapir), establish that things are different today. (Also that the dialogue is full of French puns and double-entendres.) Something is causing some of the animals to mutate into forms that are embarrassing at best, potentially fatal at worst. The director has hired two private detectives, Octopus and Beaver Burma, to find the reason and stop it.

“Eight months ago, some employees began showing the first symptoms. I think the otters were the first.”

“What do you mean?”

“They became covered with spines.”

“Like porcupines?”


“Like ‘otter-pines?’”

“If you like. They’re incapable today of running their stand in the zoo.”

“What are they selling?”



“Next it was the turn of those that your colleague would call the ‘polar urchins’, who are living today in the canteen’s freezer.”

“Then the ‘cat-pony’ that we put into the Asian animal enclosure.”

“And the ‘oyster-constrictor’ who spends his days trying to swallow the ‘rat-engale’ trying to find its voice.”

“The affair took a nasty turn when we found the “serpent-pie-thon’ dead, of self-asphyxiation. The animals began to get scared.”

Octopus and Beaver Burma start questioning the animals in the zoo. Did the otter-pines notice anything different at the time they began growing needles? Yeah, it was right when Maurice, the oldest animal in the zoo – a dodo – retired.

Do you have any idea what’s caused these changes?

Pollution! Nuclear radiation! Allergies! Satellites! Picon beer? [a popular French beer] The ozone layer? Egyptian water! [one of the ten Biblical Egyptian plagues] Progress! Wi-Fi! Extraterrestrials! Graffitti? Black magic? The OGM? [Genetically Modified food] My Aunt Hortense! God?

“What’s next on the list?”

“Two species quarantined because their metamorphoses has ostracized them. They’re in the vivariums: the anacondoctopus and the pengoctopus.”

“Will you stop with the stupid species names?”

“I make no promises.”

The pengoctopus guesses that the zoo is built over a haunted bison grave, while the anacondoctopus is sure it’s a plot of the veterinarians, one of whom (“A charming man.”) is named Doctor Moreau.

Well, this is only up to page 25. Have a good time in the remaining 162 pages seeing all the animal combinations, figuring out who the villain is, and the motivation for the plot. I’m not a fan of Voyelle’s artwork, but Bagères’s story is very funny.

Fred Patten

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