Comic review: Where is Kiki? by Blutch & Robber
Where is Kiki? A Mop and Monkus Caper - Blutch & Robber
If you haven't come across Mop and Monkus before (or Tif et Tondu in the original) it's probably not surprising, as regrettably few of these classic long-running French children's comic books - many like this one actually of Belgian origin - have made it into English translation. If your only reference is Tintin, you'd maybe think that Mop and Monkus are a variation on that where the young reporter and his friend Captain Haddock have let themselves go a bit. And although they are quite different personality wise that's not entirely an unreasonable reference point.
Tif et Tondu in the original series which ran from 1938 until 1997, are an investigative team and much like the Spirou series that they are related to in Dupuis publishing house, there's always a fresh way of reworking and developing the series for a new audience. Where is Kiki? a new 'Mop and Monkus' tale from Blutch and Robber, is a hugely promising fresh adaptation that one can only hopes leads to further new episodes with teams as strong and creative with the classic characters as this.
Based on limited expectations however and with Tintin the likely reference, the balding Tintin lookalike who has put on a bit of weight is actually the irreverent one here. Mop is easy going and not one for sticking to the rules, while Monkus takes the danger they seem to get into rather more seriously. Not being familiar with the background of the characters it took me a while to work out what kind of investigative team they are, since in our first encounter with them in Where Is Kiki? they are breaking into an armoured store room, where over 50 rare canvasses of great works of art have been stashed away by art dealer and "Antiquarian to the Stars", Patrice Goret de St.-Guy. Together they use this expose as the subject for their latest bestselling novel.
Mop then is the man with insider information and contacts, keeping an ear to the ground, Monkus is the one who kind of puts it all together and deals with the business end of the arrangement. As Mop puts it when pulled up for not keeping notes up to date "I do the people work, you do the words. Those are our specialities. Put our individual talents together and you get a crack team." You could say much the same goes for the art and writing team of Blutch - one of the stars of contemporary French BD (bandes dessinées) - working here with his brother Robber.
If you're expecting Tintin clear line precision, you won't get that with Blutch. His is very much a looser Will Eisner style of brushwork, that almost seems at odds with the traditional cartoony and classic simple clear-line style of the original series designs. Seen in the Blutch context however, along with some of what I presume are their own creations, his very distinctive character has an edge towards the gothic and cinematic and his style comes very much into his own for the dynamism of his action sequences. Even the depiction of the incidents that take place at the book signing are terrifically paced and jump off the page. Wait until you see how Blutch depicts what happens in the Gulag Klub!
It's at the bookstore however that the adventure in Where is Kiki? really takes off. A strange figure appears and hands them a book to sign, but inside is a message asking 'Where is Kiki?'. Mademoiselle Kiki, the Contessa Amélie d'Yeu is an acquaintance and partner in Mop and Monkus investigations and it appears that she has been abducted. Meanwhile the duo have to deal with an unresolved matter from the Goret de St.-Guy case when his daughter turns up at the book store and causes a scene. She tells them that her father, who is now doing time in prison, is innocent, only holding the paintings for an important client, one too dangerous to name.
Once the story gets underway, there are plenty of surprises and all manner of strange goings-on. There's plenty here to give them an abundance of material for their next novel, if they come out of this one alive. Blutch and Robber update this classic series to the 1980s, which makes it feel relatively more modern and contemporary than the classic series, but the pre-Internet and mobile phones setting allows it to retain some of the spirit of the original. There's no doubt the new creators do that exceptionally well, having terrific fun with the series and its tremendous opportunities for comic-book adventure. More please!