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The Leaning Girl Paperback – March 18, 2014
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From School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up—After an eclipselike phenomenon and a thrilling ride on The Star Express, "the most spectacular attraction" in the city of Alaxis, young Mary von Rathen has inexplicably started to lean. Having studied the mysterious phenomenon from his observatory on Mont Michelson, Dr. Axel Wappendorf theorizes that the Sun was blacked out by an "anti-planet" and proposes building a rocket ship to get closer to this strange planet. Driven from Paris by the harsh words of his critics, Augustin Desombres finds himself compelled to purchase an abandoned estate and to paint mural after mural and a young figure he cannot seem to put a face to. These three disparate stories intertwine in this graphic novel that first originated online in the 1980s and has been translated and published in English via a Kickstarter campaign. The narratives are set among The Obscure Cities, a group of separate cities located in an invisible world positioned directly on the other side of the Sun. Mostly black and white, with some color and even photography, Schuiten's artwork is wonderfully appropriate to the sci-fi genre and beautifully evocative. The images, some of which include full frontal nudity, support the text, especially in the sometimes clunky translation. The well-written story is propelled forward by the three main characters as they each try to make sense of the unexplainable and affect each other along the way. The science is incorporated in a comprehensible and fascinating way that will engage teens.—Erik Knapp, Davis Library, Plano, TX
The Leaning Girl Before dark energy and string theory entered the popular lexicon, the Belgian graphic novel wunderkind team of Schuiten and Peeters imagined how invisible cosmological forces might exercise their perplexing pull on a few select mortals in this fabulously original and haunting story, translated from the French. Mary Von Rathen, a charming sprite who drives her mother crazy with her boundless energy and insatiable imagination, embarks on the Star Express, an amusement park attraction that leaves her leaning at a constant diagonal unable to stand up straight. Somehow, this incredible premise leads to a perfectly logical denouement involving competing dimensional realities and invisible planets with powerful gravitational fields. In a subplot, after being lambasted by the ranking art critics of the day, painter Augustin Desombres seeks refuge in an abandoned manor house on a desolate plane. The paths of Mary and Augustin finally cross in a creative and sexual conflagration of quantum proportions. The sixth in the ongoing, futuristic Obscure Cities series, The Leaning Girl offers superbly intricate artwork, and the writing has a literary scope that extends well beyond science fiction and flirts with greatness. - Calvin Reid --Publishers Weekly
Favorite Books of 2014
Once again I feel like a character from Philip K. Dick s Now Wait for Last Year. Did someone slip JJ-180 into my buttermilk? At least I know that in this particular time-stream, I m supposed to be listing my Favorite Books of 2014.
This is one of my favorite graphic novels (or whatever you want to call them) from the last decade. It is connected in my mind both with Glimmerglass and with Station Eleven (see below). In a note to readers of this English translation, Benoit Peeters writes that it may be precisely because The Obscure Cities the Schuiten-Peeters series in which this volume belongs is fundamentally so full of holes and destined to remain incomplete that it invites so much outside participation from our readers. I can attest to that, since I came to this installment without any context and was drawn deeply into it. - John Wilson --Christianity Today - Books & Culture
In a steampunk-influenced counter-earth, young Mary von Rathen suddenly stands off-kilter as if pulled by a different gravity. Professor Wappendorf readies an interplanetary rocket to investigate planet-threatening dangers, while an isolationist painter on Earth (depicted in photos) seeks his mysterious muse. All three meet in a Jules Verne-type center of the counter-Earth (Verne himself plays a bit part), and the mysteries are resolved. Schuiten's haunting inked linesimpersonate Victorian engravings and counterpoint Plissart's misty photos to give a beautiful nearly real quality. The counter-Earth locales are fully embodied with visual magic, including Mary's sometimes delicately sexual adventures. Yet even if it might seem to follow from the setup, the sad conclusion that life's responsibilities trump art, imagination, and love seems denied by the artfulness of the work itself.
VERDICT: Bemusement for the eyes and mind, this sets a high mark for sublime art and imaginative plotting, even if one debates the resolution....It's a solid bet for lovers of philosophical, alt-world fiction. - Martha Cornog --Library Journal
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Top Customer Reviews
The book is a pleasant surprise-nicely designed and printed in a large size that is perfect for the beautiful art. Good job, Alaxis Press.
The story is certainly unlike anything in US comics although I have read some prose sci-fi novels in the same vein. It is about the intersection of two different realities and how they change each other. This is the only time I've seen comics and photography used in the same story where it didn't seem like a gimmick.
Looking forward to seeing more of these translated into English.
So, this gorgeous B&W story moves forward, with very little in the way of conflict, resolution, or direction. But, early on, interludes appear among Mary's episodes. A scientist describes wonders and mysteries, and the plan to explore them. An artist reaches a crisis of faith after some scathing reviews. (It could have been the other way around - scathing reviews of the science and artistic wonders and mysteries, but the writer chose this course.)
What starts as a reasonably realistic story (given three impossible things to get it going) grows progressively more fantastic as the disparate threads weave themselves into each other, and I won't even try to describe how that happens. I'll just say that Mary, a child of nature (not necessarily her own nature), catalyzes the fusion.
I can't give a comic highest marks unless the art draw me in as much as the story does. Here, imagery carries well more than its share of the story-telling. Schuiten's delicate lines, vast and precise architecture, and natural figures seem as distinctive as a fingerprint, and a combination I find very appealing. Then, the pen-drawings hint at etchings or wood engravings, reinforcing the quasi-Victorian feel of Mary's world. So I found it jarring when one of the interleaved narratives used a [mostly] photographic style. Not to worry, the narrative purpose of this shift becomes clear toward the end, when the drawn and photographed imageries start to blend.
I've known only a few of Schuiten's other world, and been bowled over by all of them. This did the same, and the back-flap's teasers for forthcoming work promise yet more. I'll be back to see if that promise is kept.
Her difference subjects her to ridicule and shunning, until she finds some kindred outsider spirits.
In time she attracts the interest of scientists as well.
We learn of other dimensional realities and hidden planets. At the same time, the story of a painter, Augustin Desombres, is interspersed in photojournalism style, as he finds himself compelled to buy an old manor house and paint its interior with enigmatic portraits of the cosmos. Eventually his story will meet with Mary's in a place where both are attracted and transformed.
The detailed artwork and unusual story make this a special one. More good news is that it's one story among several in the futuristic "Obscure Cities" series, and that we reportedly will be getting more of them in translation.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I'm looking forward to future releases in regards to The Obscure Cities, I can't wait! I'm hooked!