Comic review: Melvile by Romain Renard
Melvile: The Story of Samule Beauclair - Romain Renard
Sam Beauclair is in trouble. His agent is waiting on the imminent submission of the new book Sam has been working on, but there's no new book to submit. Sam has been unable to write anything to follow-up on his first successful novel, and he seems to have other personal problems to deal with. He is living in a cabin in the remote woodland location of Melvile, there are money problems, his home is being repossessed, and the situation is causing tension between him and his wife Sarah. There's clearly more to Sam's problems than a case of writer's block.
Sam knows that he has to move forward and, on a whim while visiting a local store for provisions, he picks up a notice for a brother and sister who need some painting work done to their house before the autumn sets in. It's money and Sam could do with that, but more importantly it's work, something that Sam can use to keep him occupied and his mind off his immediate problems. It's also a way of re-establishing contact with other people in the outside world again.
Sam's wife however is suspicious about how Sam seems to be spending a lot of time over at David and Rachel's house, particularly as Rachel is young and attractive and he has given her a copy of his book to read. She has reason to be suspicious, as there is definitely something growing between Sam and Rachel, little glances and passing comments. But there's also something that isn't right about Sam and Sarah's relationship, Sarah never leaving the house and Sam never talking about her.
What's good about Romain Renard's work in Melvile is how he manages to get across all these little undercurrents full of suggestion within the artwork. Purely from an aesthetic viewpoint, the artwork is beautiful. There are lots of silent panels and pages that capture the beauty of the location, its brown and orange glows and hazes capturing something of the mood of late summer's sunlight and gloom, but it also seems to chime perfectly with the mood of Sam as he goes through this difficult phase in his life. It's paced beautifully to give the story room to breathe, but there is also detail in the expressions that hints at tensions and dangers to come.
Inevitably, events gather pace towards a dramatic conclusion, since Sam is clearly in such a position that he needs to destroy everything and break from the past if he is to renew. And, evidently, that ties in with the cycles of nature, which can also have its moments of high drama. The way that Renaud depicts this invites you to follow that path, get caught up in the rush to such an extent that it stops you dead with some spectacular images, before picking you up again in amazement.
The story itself isn't exceptional, it has to be said. It's a bit predictable all the way through, although there are certainly a few surprises; perhaps not so much in any narrative twists as in how Renaud chooses to visualise them in the artwork. Everything about this is a perfect marriage of word and image to move the story along, capturing the weight of life, the weight of expectation, the burden of the past, and sometimes there is a need to burn it all and start again, inspiring in a way that makes this ideal for graphic novel treatment.
Melvile: The Story of Samuel Beauclair by Romain Renard is published in eBook format by Europe Comics.