Written by Guillaume Bianco
Illustrated by Antonello Dalena
Colours by Cecilia Giumento
Original design by Jean-Luc Deglin
Translation by Joe Johnson
Letters by Janice Chiang
Associate Editing by Michael Petranek
Editing in chieferizing by Jim Salicrup
Published by Papercutz
the three cents.
This volume from the French graphic novel series, wonderfully translated and packaged by Papercutz, may actually be an example of the “all-ages” label being a bit misleading. This story of a young girl and her microbe friend on vacation in the country to visit her grandparents while her parents sort out a divorce is actually leagues more intelligent, more stylish, and more intuitive than anything featuring Wolverine or Batman. The contents may well have something for almost everyone, but I’d say the sharper among the pre-teen audience might be the youngest audience appropriate, as much of the plot points and dialogue would appeal more to older readers, I think. Maybe French kids are just smarter. Regardless, while Batman and Wolverine get the hype, Ernest & Rebecca: Grandpa Bug is the true work of wonder.
Bianco writes a very thoughtful tale, with Rebecca and her big sis Coralie gradually finding a kind of peace that the high-speed modern world could rarely process. While Coralie is angst ridden over the temporary separation from her boyfriend, Rebecca learns how to deal with the actual separation of her parents through the aid of her stoic but nurturing Granny Doodle and her colorfully energetic Grandpa Bug, as well as the other new faces she meets in this place so far from home. Bianco’s ability to put problems of any sort into perspective is enchanting, and his dialogue especially between the adolescent Rebecca and her elders is incredibly imaginative. The old world common sense factor is so well-played that the reader is fully tempted to take a time out themselves and soak their feet in a quiet pond while catching up on some cloud-gazing. It’s a dramatic tale, but low-key and with just enough comedic elements to keep the premise from going too far in either the full-on cartoony or overly sympathetic routes. The touches of realism are extra keen, such as the Grandpa’s obvious but harmless taste for booze.
Dalena’s artwork is very sharp and dynamic, with a soft style that brings out so much loaded personality from his characters so calmly and coolly. The larger, more detailed scenes are especially panoramic in their scope and vision. His storytelling is very focused, giving humor and heart and horror wherever warranted quite effectively. I’m almost reminded of Humberto Ramos’ work, in the symbiosis of the real masked so well beneath exaggerated expressions. And when combined with the colouring of Giumento the panels really feel like lush animation cells, so full of hues and tones. Disney rarely looks this good, to be blunt. This art is absolutely easy to follow and even easier on the eyes, very rich in textures and affectations alike. And with ace veteran Chiang lettering the translation it feels all the more like what Beverly Cleary was trying for in her own novels so many years back, with a fluidity that carries the adventurous hand in hand with the legitimate life lessons of the tale.
I am a grown man and I loved this comic, and look forward to the soon to hit translation of the fourth book in the series. Its breeziness really does carry some weight, and the lighthearted aspects dance well with the more emotive parts of the story. And the artwork is so verifiably pretty. Grandpa Bug is the most engaging character I’ve read in entirely too long. Honestly great stuff, and not necessarily for the kids at all. Leave the capes and tights to the real kids, this one’s for the learned readers.