Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Alex Recommends Comics! Enki Bilal's The Nikopol Trilogy a.k.a down the Nikopol Hole

In a way, my love of comics is all the French's fault. I mean, I have a single Spider-Man comic drawn by Erik Larsen which my parents bought me as a kid and which accounts for my love of that guy, but when I was in my formative years the books that I repeatedly got out of the library and read again and again were the Asterix and Tintin books.

So put the blame on French language publications (as if you weren't already).

Enki Bilal's Nikopol Trilogy (ususally published as a single volume, but a check on Amazon looks like the English language version is out of print right now) is much more "grown up" than Asterix and Tintin, but equally awesome. Also, his name is awesome - it's Serbian, though he's French. C'mon say it. Enki Bilal. Enki Bilal. If you were called Enki Bilal (whether you're a boy or a girl) you'd be getting a lot more action - if you know what I mean.

Roughly, it's the story of an astronaut who was frozen and shot into deep space as some kind of punishment and who returns to a future-fascist-dystopia-Paris only to be possessed by the Egyptian god Horus who wants to use his body to take over the world. But in the Nikopol Trilogy, no-one's plans ever progress smoothly. There's mistaken identity, double crossing, poltical machianations and a violent god who solves every problem by zapping people's brains with his god powers. Most of all there's a sense of utter chaos on fast-forward. In fact, I'd guess that could be one criticism levelled at it. Bilal has so many ideas and his world is so perfectly realised that at times it feels like you're just being given a tour of his imagination and the characters trapped inside, vivid though they are, are just being bounced around like pinballs. For me that wasn't so much of a problem, I just loved the whole batty rollercoaster ride.

It reminded me a little of Grant Morrison's recent work too, in that it demands the reader keep up and doesn't pander at all. At many points we join the story in progress, and an apparent narrative gap is half explained with a throwaway line that makes us do some of the leg work. I like that, and it adds to the sense that everything is a little out of control in this world.

Even though the narrative is twisted and spiralling and doesn't exactly have a particularly neat ending, apparently this trilogy of graphic novels that was published over ten years in the 80s and 90s was recently adapted into both a computer game (Nikopol: Secrets Of The Immortals) and a movie called Immortal. The movie, directed by Bilal himself just shot up my ones to watch list even though it apparently got mixed reviews. It's based on this stuff, it's gotta be crazy as a box of nuts.

Also also also - there's chess boxing. Chess boxing is a crazy futuristic sport that Bilal includes in the final part of the trilogy - a game where people box, then play chess while beaten and bloody - and some genius decided to make it into a real sport. Man, seriously, I pray that life imitates art and in the 2200s that's the most popular sport on the planet. The ultimate test of brains and brawn.

No comments:

Post a Comment