Friday, 23 October 2015

The Madame Paul Affair by Julie Doucet Review


Julie and her deadbeat boyfriend move into a flat whose landlord is the cheerful Madame Paul. Besides her trying to set up Julie with her nephew, not much happens and then Madame Paul abruptly disappears. Julie sets out to find her. 

This was included in the recent Humble Bundle for Banned Books Week and apparently The Madame Paul Affair was a “challenged” book. No idea what anyone would find offensive about it besides it being unfortunately very boring! A neighbour attempts suicide but it happens off-panel and another talks about smoking weed but doesn’t - I’m guessing some puritanical Kentucky Fried Southern mom found these inclusions wildly offensive and tried to get it tossed onto the latest book burning bonfire for those reasons alone? 

This is my first Julie Doucet book and I don’t love her style. Very, very crowded pages with too much drawn into each panel, too many words - it looks extremely busy. Also all of the characters either look like chibi versions of humans or caricatures and I’m not sure if that’s intended. It reminds me of Bob Fingerman’s work - ergh! I understand that it was originally serialised in a weekly Montreal rag and so had to fit into a page-a-week format but still, far too much was crammed in! 

The dialogue is phrased strangely at times too probably as a result of English not being Doucet’s first language and it looks like she did the translation herself - the slightly off-kilter speech is distracting to read. 

The story itself is very uninteresting. I think we’re supposed to be gripped with the mystery of Madame Paul but really I was more amazed with how a 48 page comic could feel four times that length! Suffice it to say I wasn’t invested in any part of the narrative. 

Perhaps her award-winning My New York Diary is a much better comic but The Madame Paul Affair definitely doesn’t live up to Julie Doucet’s rep as one of indie comics’ shining lights of the last 25 years. It may be tedious but it definitely doesn’t deserve to be censored in any form - all that happens when someone tries to ban a book is that the book becomes more noted. Ironically, if nobody had said anything, this dull comic would’ve sunk without a trace all by itself!

The Madame Paul Affair

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