Sunday, 5 November 2017

Back to Basics 2: Making Plans Review (Jean-Yves Ferri, Manu Larcenet)


I read the first Back to Basics book a couple weeks ago and didn’t think much of it at the time. A young couple moves from the city to the countryside for the idyllic quiet life but find themselves unsuited to the harsher environment and surrounded by unnerving eccentrics. It’s made up of light, amusing episodes that quickly become formulaic, even a bit tiresome – ultimately it’s largely unimpressive. And yet… it unexpectedly stayed with me. So much so that I ended up getting the second and third books to see what happened next! 

And, in an oddly pleasing way, not much does happen. Mariette wants a baby causing Manu to confront his fear of becoming a father. Meanwhile they bicker over his obsession with the local baker, he’s commissioned to design the poster for the forthcoming pig festival and the saga of the boxes continues.

Like the first book, the formulaic 6-panel Sunday-Funnies-type structure gets predictable quickly and the repetitive gags rarely land. But I found myself enjoying the world writer Jean-Yves Ferri (author of the new Asterix books) and artist Manu Larcenet (who’s also the star of the comic) more and more as these characters continued to grow on me. And some of the jokes are actually funny like the bonkers local grocer who is totally out of his mind and the meta-joke explaining the convoluted creative structure of this very comic with Ferri writing and Manu drawing/living it. 

The tone and style is refreshingly breezy and effortlessly upbeat, complemented by the simple cartoony art, and reading it is a bit like watching something mindless but surprisingly engaging and comfortingly safe. 

Back to Basics 2: Making Plans isn’t going to blow anyone away and it might only work if you’re in the right frame of mind to put up with its bouncy silliness, but it’s a perfectly charming slice-of-life comic about nothing in particular - trust the French to pull something like that off!

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