Young oceanographer George Guilbert has volunteered as a helmsman for the French navy. On board the giant battleship Bellicose, he meets writer Louis Bleno and the dim but well-meaning coxswain Sam Nordiz. The ship sets out in response to a possible attack, and Guilbert and Bleno, being new sailors, become violently seasick. Nordiz suggests they visit the ship's nether regions, where there's less rocking. Though the sailors are forbidden to enter this area, Nordiz and Bleno become fascinated with it. They check out the reduction gears, which are exceedingly sensitive and crucial to the ship's functioning. Naturally, when one character drops a pencil sharpener into the gears, disaster strikes (or at least the characters think it does). Nothing much happens in Blain's anticlimactic story: readers expect a great tragedy, but everything turns out alright. Blain suggests that our imaginations inflate events and our roles in them, while the rest of the world is really paying attention to something else. While the narrative is fairly mundane, the art is fascinating: spare, expressive without being too worked over, and intensely colored to indicate locations and moods. The area above deck is portrayed in grays and blues, for example, and below deck, everything is acid yellow. While the three main characters are unremarkable, Bellicose steals the show in terms of complexity and depth. Blain skillfully captures Bellicose's sheer hugeness, where men can walk around for days on end without knowing where they are. Blain ultimately seems to be paying homage to the passing of a certain kind of military vessel and the adventure it affords ordinary men. (2003) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
George is a former oceanographer, currently in the Navy and soon to be helmsman on the Bellicose. She is a huge, old ship and supposedly rarely goes to sea. Upon boarding, George meets fellow helmsman Louis (a writer) and coxswain Sam. Soon after, they put to sea, and George and Sam find themselves quite seasick. Sam takes them into the machinery deep within the ship, where the motion is less detectable, and their seasickness recedes. As their mission proceeds and the Bellicose nears submarine target, the trio take another trip into the machinery, this time motivated by curiosity. Sam leads the way to the reduction gears, the massive mechanism integral to the operation of the ship. When Lou accidentally drops his pencil sharpener into the gears, the three, fearing the consequences, become fugitives in an endless maze of machinery, and the Bellicose lies dead in the water. French creator Blain uses a naval setting to tell a small human story. George is ordinary, missing sex with his wife (depicted in a dream sequence), and coping with a navy and a war far over his head. He is not a hero and not even much of a protagonist, but he feels familiar and is easy to sympathize with. The translation from the French is good, although the sailors' language is as rough as the sea. The art is atmospheric and claustrophobic; colors are put to excellent use expressing environments from the openness of the sea to the dark confines of the depths of the ship. VOYA Codes: 4Q 2P S A/YA G (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult and Young Adult~G). 2003, ComicsLit/NBM, G80p,
Adult/High School-Like Joseph Heller and Kurt Vonnegut, Blain uses the irrationality of war to explore the fragility of life and society. Optimistic and naive George leaves his wife to ship out with the Navy. He's assigned duty aboard the Bellicose, a mammoth, obsolete (and aptly named) warship, where he quickly befriends two outcasts. Disoriented by the byzantine regulations of naval life, nauseated by seasickness, and tormented by the threat of an enemy submarine, the three sailors seek refuge in the entrails of the ship. Their near-mythical descent takes them through a labyrinth of ladders, pipes, and steam, terminating in a cavernous room that houses the reduction gears, a massive, finely tuned device for halting the craft. A small accident there slows the ship, unleashing a chain of events with hellish consequences: the three must choose between being captured as suspected saboteurs or starving to death in the stygian depths of the ship. This is an intriguing tale with plenty of humor and insight, but it may have a limited audience. The scratchy and stylized color artwork can be evocative, capturing the monumentality of the ship or the bewilderment of the characters, but some readers may not warm to the loose, caricaturized renderings. The combination of sailor talk that lives up to its reputation, occasionally awkward translation, sexual content, and the overall nature of the work make it best suited for older teens.-Douglas P. Davey, Guelph Public Library, Ontario, Canada Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.