100 Days, 100 Comics #15: ‘The Confessions of Julius Antoine — Lea’

The confessions of Julius Antoine -- LeaI picked this 1989 Fantagraphics translation up out of the bargain bins at Dark Tower over the summer, which can be some very fruitful bargain bins for any of your Chicago North Siders reading this. It was originally French, and pages are album formatted (extra wide). It promises big on the back with jacket copy that says “In the tradition of Hitchcock and Truffout.” Well, either of those two film greats it is not. But for the buck I paid for it it was a better read than most of the stuff you’ll find on the racks week to week.

The writer’s name is La Tendre, the artist’s name is Rossi, and the English translator’s name is Dick Hansom, who evidently edited some stuff at Dark Horse, but who I’ve otherwise never heard of suspect to be a nom du guerre. If anyone knows about that, you should let me know. Anyhow, the illustration is ornate and just what you’d expect from a bookstore-quality Euro import like this. And if I were to describe the story’s hook through to the twist at the end, it sounds like a serviceable enough story. This designer struggles with his attraction to younger girls, and when he is thrust into a climactic moment of Prufrockian decision everything spins out of control, and you the reader are left to judge whether or not he committed a heinous crime.

The jacket copy also calls this a morality play, which I guess fits because it’s about whether or not he acts out on his impulses or not, but fundamentally it’s about whether he kills this girl or not. The alcohol binge as a plot device comes off a little contrived, and I think that’s what hollowed this story out for me overall. But the high concept of Hitcockian plot-twisting and Nabokovian tension just shot way too high and failed to deliver for me in the end with anything that really took me around a corner and caused me to question my own moral assumptions. Nevertheless, it was fun to watch them aim that high.

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