Last column, I talked about the first volume of the Freddy Lombard material by Yves Chaland.
This time, I will talk about the second volume.
At this point, it’s worth noting the differences between the editions that have arisen as a result of when they were printed. The copy of the first book that I own is in hardback and was printed in 2003 by Humanoids. It is printed in the original size. The copy of the second book that I have was printed by Humanoids in 2005 in paperback.
As a result of a misguided attempt to pander to American comic books fans (and shops), the material has been shrunk to a size that is closer in format to American graphic novels.
If I had been willing to wait, I might have been able to find a copy of the second book in the original printing (and size), but there was no guarantee that that would ever happen. If you want to read the content – especially for material that is this difficult to locate – sometimes you have to take what you are able to find.
The first story in this volume is called Holiday in Budapest.
It starts off innocently enough with our three heroes (Freddy, Dina and Sweep) sleeping rough on the shores of a lake near Venice. Dina is working as a Latin tutor to a fifteen year old boy named Lazlo. Lazlo convinces Freddy and Sweep to drive him back to Hungary and, while they are on the road, reveals that his true purpose is to buy weapons on the black market and participate in the revolution that is sure to occur now that Stalin is dead and the grip on the Iron Curtain has been loosened. From there, Dina catches up with them and they are caught up in the events of the (failed) Hungarian Revolution against Russian control that occurred 1956.
There are some very interesting things about this story.
First, it’s the only story that precisely places the three main characters in any specific time.
The background details (to this point) have been general enough that they could have been living in the 1950s or the 1970s or anytime in between. There is a blurb from Chaland at the end of the book where he mentions that this was his attempt to write something about the Hungarian Revolution from the perspective of someone living in the 1950s; none of the comics of the time had addressed the events and Chaland felt it was a grave oversight.
Reading the story from this bit of information tucked in the back of your head is very revealing. The setup for the story takes all of a dozen pages, which leaves 34 pages to spin out the events of the Revolution (which it does – in detail). There is a female Russian spy with the hots for Sweep, officers prepared to commit suicide, arrests by secret police, dissidents being rounded up and shipped away by train and a lot of bad craziness. Without a detailed history of the revolution in my hand to fact check the story, I’m forced to admit that it does a good job of presenting a story about something that I really had no previous information about. At the same time, it’s entertaining. Funny things happen – gallows humor, mostly, but it is funny. And there is even a tangible sense that the stakes are real.
It works on several levels and was a nice surprise to find in the second volume, which I really knew nothing about.
The other story in the second volume is called F-52 and, in a lot of ways, marks the point where Chaland’s home-grown ligne clare Tintin knockoff mutates into the Atomic Style.
The title refers to a cutting edge atomically powered courier plane that is about to take off on it’s inaugural flight from Paris to Melbourne. Of course, Dina, Sweep and Freddy have jobs among the flight crew. Among the passengers are families migrating to Australia and a spy escaping with industrial secrets.
There is a kidnapping, a search for the spy by examining everyone’s shoes, sexual harassment among the crew and false accusations galore.
It’s a nice step into an ensemble cast story set in a science fictional vehicle that allows Chaland to practice his chops. It’s one of the better Freddy Lombard stories and, along with another very strong story, makes this volume a must-read if you like the idea of a Tintin riff that actually involves adult situations.
By the end of this series, the only real Tintin reference left is the hair flip on the of Freddy’s head.