Monday, July 2, 2018

Soaring Penguin Pressl: Boum's A Small Revolution

Soaring Penguin Press is one of many small press concerns in the U.K., and they tend to produce nicely-designed and crafted comics that lean between genre and art-comics. Boum's A Small Revolution is somewhere in-between, as it's sort of a war comic. It's the tale of a nation ruled by a tyrannical President, opposed by a Resistance of anarchists. The focus of the story is on a couple of young orphans, the daredevil Florence and the sickly Auguste. She steals food so the two of them can survive, though he has a lung disease (presumably tuberculosis) that is slowly killing him. She hangs out in a dying antiques shop to hear a record by an artist who advocated resistance but not war; it's a paradox that Florence embraces, even as he's referred to as a "deserter". From there, Auguste's older brother Dominique introduces them to the Resistance, and Florence's life is transformed.

There is a scene worthy of Chekhov in the way that it establishes a future scene in which a jovial Resistance fighter plays around with Florence, first giving her a rifle that's way too heavy for her. Then she puts a grenade in her hand, telling her to be careful not to pull the pin, and then she takes it back. After that, the action moves swiftly in this slim volume (94 pages). Boum's clear line and cute, cartoonish drawing style winds up playing a significant narrative role. Florence, with her oval-shaped head and giant, almond-shaped blue eyes is an almost painfully cute character. Boum counteracts that in the early going by showing her smoking; it's an easy, shorthand reference to show how her childhood's been destroyed. Later in the story, when Florence breaks into the Presidential palace and hugs the President's leg, it's a believable development because she is tiny and cute.

Predictably, the President is unamused by Florence, who pretends to be afraid of the Resistance. Someone peels her off of him so he can go make a televised appearance. A sympathetic official asks her if she wants to see the President record his message, leading her to hug him again. This time, the plan works, and we see a certain grenade pin that she places in his hand. It's a fitting end for a character whose life was marked by occasional bursts of beauty amidst long spells of violence and meaninglessness. When the only people in her life were taken from her, she honored their memory be becoming the very symbol of revolution that she had sought in Boris's music. Whether or not her act of violence is less important than its symbolic importance to a watching nation. For all of the flourishes related to characterization in this book, Boum never loses sight of its tight plot elements. It's not a complex story in terms of plot or themes, but Boum uses that simplicity to create a direct, powerful punch in a compact space.

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