Comic review: Hearts at Sea by Cyril Pedrosa

Hearts at Sea - Cyril Pedrosa
****


I guess the English language title of Cyril Pedrosa's Les Coeurs Solitaires (literally 'lonely hearts') should have given me a clue, but Pedrosa creates a little world so suggestive of home comforts and routine that it doesn't seem like his main character Jean-Paul is going anywhere, so it's a surprise when you turn a page and find him on-board a ship ready to set sail off into the Mediterranean. But such an effect is undoubtedly intentional and the results are also a little jarring but necessary for Jean-Paul.

Up to that point, Jean-Paul's life seems to be going nowhere. Living in a place where not much happens, somewhere between Paris and Basel, Jean-Paul works in the family business, which is designing traditional quality hardwood toys. He's very much under the influence and watchful eye of his mother, a bond that seems impossible to break now that his father is dead. As the anniversary of his death approaches, it's clear that Jean-Paul is dissatisfied with the way things are going and it's clear that the girl in the white tracksuit is never going to notice him on his morning jog, so when he appears in that panel on the deck of a ship, you have a fair idea why he is there.



Whether life aboard the Lorenzo, a lonely hearts cruise ship that caters to all ages, will offer him any real opportunities for a meaningful romance and excitement is unlikely given Jean-Paul's rather timid nature and lack of self-confidence. There are plenty of games and parties designed to help people get to know one another and plenty of attractive women around, but most of them seem to have brought their own issues and problems with them, but at least it's a step in the right direction of Jean-Paul trying to take back control of his own life.

An indication of how much of a change this is to Jean-Paul is very much within the dynamic of Pedrosa's artwork itself. Pedrosa's drawings are in that loose, expressive European cartoony style, but it's a style that will be familiar from a certain period of Disney films, Pedrosa having worked as an in-between artist on The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Hercules. Pedrosa (who doesn't look unlike Jean-Paul, so there may be some autobiographical character to Hearts at Sea) is able to make this work for the two sides of Jean-Paul's life, his mundane home life and how he finds himself 'adrift' at sea.



In both cases however Pedrosa stretches the artwork into hyper-expressionistic, with exaggerated gestures that not only give indication of strong character traits, but also hint at and give expression to inner feelings in a way that reminded me of Kyle Baker (Cowboy Wally, Why I Hate Saturn). Some figures are solid, calm and assured, others like Jean-Paul are a riot of swirling curves and angles that hint at their romantic yearning, nervousness and fear of humiliation. The lonely-hearts sea journey that Jean-Paul undergoes might not have anything of great insight or originality, but Pedrosa's drawings ensure that there are some lovely touches, strong characterisation and a way of expressing deeper sentiments and inner turmoil that many will recognise as true.

Hearts at Sea (Les Coeurs Solitaires) by Cyril Pedrosa is published in English in digital eBook format only by Europe Comics.

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