Thursday, January 22, 2015

Review: Run Like Crazy Run Like Hell

A few things to know about Run Like Crazy Run Like Hell by Jacques Tardi:

  1. It's set in the early '70s, but it was published in French in 2011, and just published in English by Fantagraphics this month. 
  2. Although using panels from the inside to decorate the front cover, back cover and frontispiece is great graphic design, do your best not to read any of them, or else they may give too much away. 
  3. Tardi's style for drawing people may look cartoony, but they're grounded in reality, and this is a hard-boiled, messed-up noir story.

Jean-Patrick Manchette was France's Raymond Chandler. In '72 he wrote Run Like Crazy Run Like Hell. As a result, this adaptation contains effortless little (and sometimes regrettable) markers of the period that might be hard to recreate deliberately. Manchette's lean works are full of trenchant criticism of France's society, and his stories follow characters that most of his readers had forgotten about: the poor, the disenfranchised and the crazy.

Tardi, following Manchette's lead, takes the characters at face value. We follow along inside the mind of a practiced killer, or a neurotic and disaffected woman, without apology or self-consciousness. Once you get used to the drawing style, the characters are as blunt and stark as in any crime movie.

(That drawing style is Tardi's version of the French ligne claire ("clear line") style, which puts simply-drawn figures in detailed backgrounds, using realistic props. The line has a uniform weight, and there's generally no hatching or shading, just flat black areas. Herg√© pioneered and perfected the style with Tintin.)

Sometimes, the narration's terseness left me confused: A couple of the scene transitions were hard for me to notice, since there's no inflection between one third-person narrator and another.

Without giving away anything about the plot, I'll just say that things really get nuts. Before long, the story picks up the momentum of a runaway train. You can read the whole story in one feverish night (like I did). The violence is sudden, brutal and cathartic.

At the end, you're left with characters who are compromised, with outsiders still on the outside, and with a really weird take on innocence.

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