Monday, December 12, 2011

XIII Mystery #2 - Irina

Following up on the first XIII spin-off volume, Mongoose, Dargaud published "Irina" in the october of 2009. Done as the collaboration between veteran writer Eric ("Song of the Stryges") Corbeyran and artist Philippe ("Pin-up) Berthet, the second episode had a much harder task. Considering that the title character is showed up in the other half of the series, as Mongoose's lover and a trained killer who XIII disfigures, the creative team had a very unenviable task before them.

How does one expand an extremely unsympathetic supporting character's story into something gripping and interesting? As a starting point, Corbeyran takes Irina's relationship with Jessica Martin, another late addition, that ended up being co-star for several of the last XIII volumes. The character's bisexuality seemed somewhat forced when it appeared in the main title, and could arguably have been considered a shortcut to update the series into something edgier and more contemporary, but here it provides a key to understanding the character, along with the Eastern European milieu.

Similar to Mongoose, the follow up XIII Mystery volume takes place during the Cold war, this time from the point of view of KGB. And while tying up the series into concrete dates somewhat complicates the status of the continuation of the regular XIII title (considering that XIII should by now by all accounts be a middle aged man well past his prime), the historical context was always one of the main features of the title, and one can hardly fault Corbeyran for finding the inspiration in USSR wet works. The story is framed around a sequence that precedes Irina's role in the Vance and Van Hamme XIII volumes which is clear from the context. Likewise, the album tells a complete story that is entirely accessible to the new readers, especially considering that Irina herself was hardly developed during the parent series albums.

Similar to "Mongoose", the story covers her formative years, starting out in Belarus, when she was 16, and dating back to the horrible event that scarred her life. An incident in the orphanage involving the death of her best friend permanently impresses itself on the young girl's psyche, causing her to obsess over it to the point of literally subjecting everything in her life to the goal of finding the alleged perpetrator of the crime. Following the girl's escape, KGB agents get on her trail and act out on her ruthlessness by offering her to join the organization.

Corbreyan's script is continually narrated by Irina, which manages to puncture her emotional detachment and reveal the bitter humanity behind the gorgeous features. Berthet is given a task to alter between several designs, given Irina's role as the spy, as well as the changes she undergoes throughout the years. It's difficult to judge the consistency of design given the rapid jumps in the story, especially considering that even her final look differs from William Vance's version, considering that he portrayed a more unbalanced and physically scarred woman, which is difficult to connect with the more typically beautiful and understated Irina of XIII mystery, who only seems to come to life in the action scenes, where the focus shifts from her green eyes to the applying of KGB's brutal training.

On XIII Mystery, Berthet opts for a very paired down and classical style, featuring clear layouts and easily recognizable characters, with pages that are dynamic and easy to follow. Yet, the economy of his figure based style, coupled with Dominique David's use of sharp browns and grays, leaves a strange impression. Despite the traditional nine panel oversized format of a European comic album, Philippe's work almost invites to a smaller and denser presentation, with something like a manga digest perhaps being best suited for his work. His work filtered through David's cold colors even reminds of comics formatted for mobile devices. It is certainly in contrast with Vance's labored and detailed style, but despite the craftsmanship involved, seems very much in tune with Irina's quiet melancholy, leaving the reader with a sense of detachment.

Perhaps it's only fitting that the audience should warm up to the protagonist only so much, considering that despite Corbeyran's elaboration of Irina's motivation, she still chooses the role of a trained assassin to get close to the man whom he blames for her childhood's friend's death. The writer doesn't mince words, and he portrays USSR as a poverty stricken military dictatorship, that proceeds to make a monster out of Irina in order for her to survive and get back at her enemy. Her physicality defines each of her executions, as Corbeyran goes one step further then a typical "Nikita"-like narrative, and depicts her seductions as routinely involving sex, and not just the tease, as is typical with the media that employs such modern day femme fatale tropes.

Irina is equally adept at both seducing and killing men that KGB points her towards, but her heart is only in the steps that lead to the eventual capture of her prey. The brief moments of intimacy usually involve women, and even then largely involve manipulation on some level. Otherwise, she maintains complete control of herself, and basically sleepwalks through her assignments while she makes her play to officer that abused her friend.

The resultant story is as cold and efficient as Irina herself, but it still ends up with plenty of distractions. For all the work done in working on the protagonist's appearance, the resultant body type still seems uneven, as Berthet eventually endows her with a body type that simply seems too buxom, particularly given Vance's original design for the character. Likewise, the object of her search is depicted as on the model handsome officer, with little visible signs of aging, which is certainly not a deliberate creative choice, but a clear oversight on the part of the artist. Despite the presence of wrinkles, the elusive KGB officer looks somewhat close to his age only in the very last scene, where he finally confronts Irina on her own terms.

Most commendably, Corbeyran closes of the volume with a flashback depicting young Julia's death in a way that challenges Irina's motivation, and adds a sense of ambiguity to her single minded pursuit. Otherwise, the subplot involving Jessica feels somewhat slighted and mostly exploits the emotional foundation between the relationship of Irina and her orphan friend, that continues to define the protagonist, leading to a logical extrapolation regarding her sexuality. Otherwise, Corbeyran does little more then set up Jessica's role in the wider XIII story, with most of the pages given the two lovers being ultimately plot oriented.

Mongoose likewise appears late in the story, but he at least impacts directly on it, which cannot be said for Colonel Amos, whose role is little more than an extended cameo that could have been used to bring closure to the other most important relationship in Irina's life, that of her and her KGB husband. Colonel Wladimir Svetlanov is presented as a fairly complex figure, a company man who arranges marriage with Irina in order to further his own interests, which bring her closer to the officer that she blames for Julia's death. The complex dynamic between the two characters is somewhat cut short as Corbeyran arranges the Colonel to help her get to America, where she starts receiving orders from another father figure. That the familiar elements of Van Hamme and Vance's XIII eventually take over the story come as no surprise, as Mystery is primarily designed as a series of prequels by different creative teams, and the volume certainly contains a regular the resolution that climaxes the plot, enabling it to work as a story in its own right, its just that it feels like a misstep not to return to a very interesting dynamic that gave a little color to the otherwise familiar revenge story.

Another missed opportunity can be seen in abandoning the angle of Irina's attraction to her quarry, as some of her narration at one point hints that she finds him attractive. This is an angle that could have made the story of a woman as a spy more unique in itself, but Corbeyran ultimately decides to use it to realize the tension in their final confrontation, providing a definite mix of sex and death to the volume that features copious amounts of both.

It should be noted that "Irina" containts two very brutal torture scenes involving female body that serve to justify the protagonist's hatred toward the KGB officer that robbed her off her friend and her childhood, which might seem logical, but still strike the reader unprepared. As for the sexual content, it feels very subdued, despite being graphic. The creators opt to depict sex as the weakness on the part of the characters, but even then they shy away from using it as fan service. For what it's worth, Corbeyra and Berthet's take on XIII Mystery contains about as much exploitative poses as a typical genre representative (with the exception of a hotel room fight that deliberately goes overboard on cheesecake, and thus stands apart in what can hardly be called a light hearted story). For the most part, the creators maintain an even depiction of sex and violence as basically being tools of trade of a damaged woman, exploited by the intelligence agency. Irina goes through with it as long as it furthers her own agenda, but as soon as her relationship with her superiors changes, she chooses to go her own way, which naturally means taking her place as a XIII supporting character, which is how she first came to the attention of the audience.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Red Skull - Incarnate 1-5

Along with Joe Johnston's summer blockbuster "Captain America - First Avenger", Marvel launched a slew of mini-series. Hidden among them was Greg Pak and Mirko Colak's "Red Skull - Incarnate", a project that was the spiritual successor to the writer's previous "Magneto - Testament" mini-series. Pak and Garmine di Giandomenico's 2008 effort garnered some acclaim as an unorthodox Marvel mini-series, exploring the plight of Jews in World War II through the lens of the X-Men's premiere antagonist.

In "Red Skull", Pak sets out to do the same, by writing a well researched period piece looking at the pre-World War II Germany, albeit centered on Captain America's chief villain. On one hand, the Red Skull's lack of superpowers naturally leads to a story without the supernatural elements that come with the mutant metaphor. Yet, where Schmidt differs from Magneto is in that he's a very over the top villain without the benefit of Chris Claremont's measured characterization.

On the face of it, there is a clear need for a somewhat more measured Red Skull story, given the heavy push that Marvel gave Captain America in the face of the movie. It's all the more commendable that the editorial saw fit to support Pak's version, as the writer sidesteps the typical problems by simply focusing on Johann before he became Red Skull, in turn creating a piece of historical fiction that is both accessible and informative.

Editor Warren Simmons, who recruited Carmine di Giandomenico to illustrate "Magneto - Testament" has long since left the company, paving the way for penciller/inker's subsequent engagement on "All-Winners Squad - Band of heroes" (the book that was unceremoniously cancelled after the fifth issue of the projected eight). Despite both "All-Winners Squad" and "Red Skull" being edited by Alejandro Arbona, the original series' assistant editor decided to support Mirko Colak as the penciller on Pak's follow up project, breaking with the painted, European-style look of the 2008 mini.

The change is more then noticeable, as the two minis otherwise act as parallels, and even crossover at one point. "Incarnate" follows the same five issue format, where each episode takes place at least a year apart, as the protagonist slowly comes of age in a time of great turmoil for the German republic. The chief problem inherent in following Red Skull's point of view at any point but from his childhood would have been accessibility. Magneto as a prosecuted boy is inherently a more sympathetic character, while watching young Schmidt come into his own as a psychopath could have been a hideous experience. That Pak manages a nuanced portrayal, one that makes the reader actually care for, and even try to understand Johann speaks for the quality of the characterization, as well as Colak's propensity for drawing children as believable characters.

Young Red Skull is realized as a child with a pageboy haircut, whose dark brown hair rounds out his head in a way that both differentiates him from his friends, and even hints at the man he will one day become. Likewise, Pak could have chosen to simply use the more sensible Dieter as the protagonist, which would both enable him with a real narrator, as well as a device through which the reader gets to know Skull by proxy, which was the technique used by Derf in "My friend Dahmer". Pak bravely sidesteps such narrative crutch and persist in simply using Dieter as a link to Johann's humanity, or simpler, with their bond being the closest thing to a family that two boys share.

Interestingly, where Magneto goes through the horrible ordeal with his whole family, as well as his Gipsy girlfriend, Johann has a much different experience. Chiefly, despite the poverty, he stays in Germany throughout, with the conflict being which side he will chose, or more realistically, how he ended up with the Nazis being his only option. Pak covers a swath of years that lead the country through several governments and great economical and sociopolitical changes, in most issues devoting a single page that narratives some of the key historical points, but the main ideas remain clear.

Even the reader who is largely uninformed of the pre-war history will be able to follow the clash between German left and right, and the rise of extremism. That Johann spends the drab twenties looking for a father figure seems like an obvious plot, but Pak executes it in such a way so as to refrain from the easy choices. The hard, even intentionally cruel man he looks up to still want to teach him a lesson, albeit in the child's eyes it continually boils down to the conflict between the weak and strong.

Considering how easily the subject matter lends itself to cliches, it's commendable that Pak finds realism in simply drawing out the conflict, and letting real world events set the pace. Matthew Wilson's shaded browns violently punctured by reds likewise seem like an afterthought, and certainly have little in common with Matt Hollingsworth's rich blues and purples, that added the painterly feeling to "Magneto". The distinction is notable as the subdued hues over Colak's pencils create a completely different visual. Mirko is a traditional comic book artist in a way that he solidly composes his panels, having his characters act through carefully studied anatomy instead of Giandomenico's exaggerated expressionism.

The effect is a much more subdued and carefully posed work, with clear layouts carrying over the storytelling without the direct effectiveness of Giandomenico's work. As for the crossover, it consists of a scene in the penultimate issue that is completely logical given the context of the story and doesn't in any way penalize the reader who is not familiar with "Testament". Moreover, having made his holocaust story, Pak puts the Jews front and center only in the book's second episode, as a family tries to care for Schmidt as an orphan child find on the streets of Berlin. Of course, throughout the story there is no question that the Jews are constant victims of Nazi's bullying, it's just that the writer opts to present a wider take on the mania that lead Germany to invade Poland and the horrible excesses that followed.

Johann is shown to be bullied child who endears himself to the family through a mix of desperation and trickery, with Pak depicting his actions as stemming out of the survivor's instinct. Despite the blood on his hands, the writer maintains that a ten year old Schmidt is not defined by a malevolent streak, which is at this point still mostly a defense mechanism. Yet, he is continually being shown society in which there is no place for kindness, symbolized by his Jewish caretaker, and more importantly, where there is no direct reward for his own acts of humanity and caring.

In contrast, violence offers an easy answer, and hardens an orphan at a time of depression, where the society slowly devolves into barbarism, paralleling and empowering the growth of a young boy's darkest impulses. The space available to creators helps the story foundation from becoming too simple, and the time frame further contributes to a believable psychological make up that at the same time looks up to authority and seeks to destroy it.

The Skull's chief two impulses thus end up his desire to act like an adult and protect the people he cares about, while still trying to find an authority capable of withstanding his hate and nihilism. His repeated desire to destroy his mentors, whether they be a teacher at the school for wayward children, the local mobster, and eventually the Nazi leaders (culminating in his plot to kill Hitler), speaks out not for the evil in him, but for a world view of a child driven to madness through the collapse of society and the traditional role models.

The realization somewhat falters in the crowded scenes, as the abundance of figures goes contrary to Colak's carefully posed work. It's not that the scenes don't carry out the necessary actions in clear terms, as well as the period clothing, but that the backgrounds still suffer from the need to complete pages in a set amount of time. Colak is simply too young to adopt to Marvel's pace in a way that even his hurried lines maintain the style without sacrificing the quality to improvisation.

Otherwise, a motif of red borders for panels bursting with violence sometimes lead to the unintended effect of scenes seeming like they take the place in the protagonist's head, with the change of coloring seeming very abrupt and unnecessary. Colak's work is distinctive and brutal enough that there is no real need to saturate it in such heavy reds, where the whole series could simply have worked with a more creative choice than Wilson's familiar overreliance on the red.

Perhaps most emblematic of the writer's approach is the way in which he portrays Schmidt's association with the Nazi party. Where a lesser writer would simply jump at the opportunity to marry Johann's obsession with knives and violence into making him a perfect member of the party from the time he could read, Greg Pak chooses to return his school friend into the story. Dieter's presence goes beyond the need to complicate the story for the sake of tying into requisite real world events, once again bringing out the man in Johann and seeing how much he has changed in the intervening years.

At first, Johann is shown murdering a Nazi who was blackmailing his gangster boss, with the young man still weighing his allegiance in the forthcoming battle between the Socialists and the Nazis. As Hitler seizes power, Dieter ends up imprisoned with communists at Dachau, with Johann proceeding to work for the meanest boss around, the Nazi party. As the plot moves to 1933, Colak ages the character believably, with Johann both taller and more confidant, hiding his pageboy haircut with a uniform cap.

Tellingly, the cap falls down in the moment where he squares off against the SS, continuing his love/hate relationship with the authorities. At this point, Schmidt is still the outcast and though his superiors recognize the ruthless streak in him, they still manage to beat it out. He reacts the only way he's thought, by plotting their deaths, and proceeding to carry the insult all the way to Hitler himself. Dieter decides to join in, but it's quickly apparent that Johann's politics are a mess of personal injury and sick ambition, as he sabotages his own plan at first sight of absolute power, as exemplified by the presence of the Nazi leader and the actions of his bodyguards.

As his petty plan breaks down, and instinct takes over, the balding young man is finally confronted by someone who recognizes the cruelty behind his reaction, and simply accepts it. It seems that only by standing on the side of Reich's architect and supreme leader Schmidt finally feels secure, and part of something that is strong and durable. It goes without saying that this is where the series ends, as Red Skull sacrifices his childhood and friendship for the privilege of meting out violence and being protected from life's harsh repercussions.

Everything that follows could be said to deal with Captain America, whose complete absence legitimizes the story. The reader knows that Johann Schmidt eventually becomes Red Skull, but if not for David Aja's striking, propaganda style covers, as well as some of the symbolism pointing towards Jack Kirby's design incorporated into Colak's layouts, the story reads like a little boy's plunge into the negativity that his nation unleashed upon the whole world, which has nothing to do with superheroes. Simply put, Marvel's predecessor published a propaganda American comic during World War II, but Greg Pak and Mirko Colak choose to revisit the pre war years from a historical perspective.

Thankfully, the assistant editor of "Magneto - Testament" saw fit to help its follow-up came into being as an unassuming movie tie-in mini-series, yet despite the creators' success it is very doubtful that another similar venture will be forthcoming any time soon. Alejandro Arabona, former assistant editor to Marvel's EIC Axel Alonso no longer works for the company, as its currently restructuring to further concentrate on their most successful superhero properties. The cancellation of the aforementioned "All-Winner Squad" mini-series after five published issues currently serves as the signifier of the trend that will likely lead to the lack of tolerance when it comes to projects that are primarily a labor of love for the talent involved. In a certain way, the reader has gotten to see both sides to Pak's vision of the conflict that has come to define the 20th century, and hopefully Marvel will keep both books in print long enough to help them connect to the audience that may have missed them at the time of the original serial publication.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Adieu Brindavoine

Before establishing himself as a versatile author either by the pulp adventures of "Adela Blanc-Sec", or the more serious efforts dealing with the war and human condition, Jacques ("It was the War of the Trenches") Tardi tried out his hand with "Adieu Brindavoine", a complete narrative in the style of Herge. Published in 1974 by Casterman, the pre WW1 adventure story was later fitted with an epilogue and linked to the "Adele" series of books, with Brindavoine joining the cast after the fourth album. Clearly, by then Tardi was feeling assured by the success of his new series, which explains the presence of several of the antagonists of "Arctic Marauder" in the climax of Adele's fourth adventure.

The eventual reprint of "Adieu Brindavoine" must have brought Tardi a belated sense of satisfaction, but despite the addition of the somber epilogue, the book still reads differently then the "Adele" cycle. Sure enough, the very beginning, with the mysterious caller coming to a detailed early 20th century mansion, filled to the brim with period objects, feels exactly like his most famous work, but what follows the exposition is markedly different. The elderly Basile Zarkhov encountering Brindavoine's model in full theatrical gear feels delightfully strange and oft-kilter, while his proposition to young Lucien seems as unlikely as the "Flash Gordon" inspired caller's immediate demise. Yet, the abruptness of the introduction imbues enough energy and directness into the plot that the reader feels engaged to stick with Brindavoine as he tries his luck in the Middle East.

Even at this stage in his career, Tardi's boards were meticulously detailed, albeit with a looser inking line, and fewer panels on the page, leading to a more natural and faster paced read then his later comics. Getting to the streets of Istanbul, Tardi uses most of the two pages to slowly zoom in on his arriving protagonist. Starting out with the establishing shots, the writer/artist follows Lucien's walk through the city streets, managing to incorporate some of the landmarks of the Turkey's largest city while never crowding out the page or slowing the plot down to a crawl.

The designated color scheme of reds and browns feels perfectly suited to the subject matter, and Tardi's style feels completely wholesale and integrated, whether depicting down on their luck journeyman, the detailed architecture that surrounds them, or the complicated machinery that they use to travel. Despite 44 pages probably being more than enough to tell a pretty straight forward adventure story, the writer/artists opts for a leisurely pace, deliberately leaving the elements of the plot in a strange balance.

On one hand, this means that even Oswald Carpleasure, the co-protagonist ends up being a delightfully hammy caricature of a bored colonialist Englishman, where there was clearly more then enough space to develop the character into a slightly better realized figure. Interestingly, Tardi is content to leave the moral ambiguity to Brindavoine, who emerges as the only realistic character, to the detriment of the rest of the cast, particularly the bizarre criminals seated in the Iron city.

On the other hand, it's very easy to explain away these kind of details given Tardi's artistic background and training in fine arts. Simply put, he approaches each of the panels as a completely realized sketch for a more expansive illustration, all the while never losing the continuity of the page. The Herge influence is perhaps most apparent in scene transitions, as he employs the device of the characters proclaiming surprise right before the reader turns the page to identify the reason of their sudden nervousness.

Other than this most direct of the story techniques that "Adieu Brindavoine" shares with "Tintin", the rest are present at an instinctive level, as any kind of Franco-Belgian comics narrative that stars a young man going to a different country on the chase of adventure operates from Herge's elaboration of Golden age storytelling. Yet, Tardi's characters speak in a much more natural way and their Middle Eastern adventure is much less meandering then those of Tintin and Haddock.

To show such a mastery of the form at such an early age, and not to receive the audience's attention justifies the talented creator's efforts to get Casterman to move the volume back into print, otherwise it's doubtful that it would still be debated, forty years after it's initial publication.

With the remote desert setting of "Adieu Brindavoine", the writer/artist actually always has a choice of blanking out backgrounds to concentrate on the figures. Again, that he uses it solely during the skirmishes in the desert, and later on, in the fights taking place behind closed doors in Iron city, goes to show the thinking that went behind each of the choices made during the production of the album. The action sequences are perennial fast reads, and additional background details are typically justified only when they are specifically needed for the fight, otherwise they slow down pacing in much the same way as the advent of unnecessary and unnatural sounding dialogue during the proceedings.

For such a commercial offering, with a couple of very long action pieces along several shorter ones, the overall tone is very strange. Tardi details all the equipment, with particularly vibrant vehicles always clearly posed on the page, likewise the weapons being appropriately threatening despite their antique make, yet a note of pervasive cruelty, and the protagonist's ambiguous approach hinting some of the themes the writer/artist will elaborate elsewhere, starting with the epilogue.

Starting with the opening set in France, Lucien is depicted as someone who is a victim of violence, an adventure seeker that doesn't want to hurt anybody and is actually mostly searching for himself, albeit in dangerous terraine, as a part of what eventually reveals itself as another's horrible plan. Given his defensiveness, the cruelty of his enemies seems that much more stubborn and pervasive, and one can hardly think of a more mischievous gallery of characters then ones offered by Tardi here.

After the initial terror fostered by a black assassin, who gleefully and demonically metes out nightmarish punishment, Tardi chooses Olga Vogelgesang as the direct antagonist, leading Brindavoine and Oswald to Iron city. The choice of a crazed German seems deliberate given the proximity of Great War, revealing the intelligence behind the employment of pulp tropes, but this still doesn't prepare the reader for the helter skelter feel of the last act. Simply put, following Lucien's expertly rendered nightmare and the sequence leading to his awakening in the Iron City, Tardi introduces the master plotter behind Zarkhov's mission, and it turns out a very puzzling choice.

It takes an expert stylist to creatively justify the use of intelligent apes and horribly disfigured villains in an otherwise relatively realistic scenario, and it's hard to say that Tardi accomplishes what he sets out to do. In this aspect, "Adele Blanc-Sec" works much better, as the whole work is stylized in such a way that the cast of mad scientists and assorted esotheria lends itself to a variety of strange phenomena, whereas "Adieu Brindavoine" climaxes in a very rushed ending that introduces character after character, each over the top and plotting demise of the other. The cumulative effect is still very problematic, as it breaks from the previously established tone and goes for the high camp, only to emerge back to the somewhat more internal narrative at the very end.

Unfortunately, despite the powerful ending sequence introducing the misguided Brindavoine to World War I, it's hard to imagine the series succeeding as Tardi envisioned it. Utilizing Herge's approach of featuring expressive characters in the dynamic adventures filled with well realized backgrounds, Jacques Tardi simply hasn't brought enough of his own identity and ideas when it came to developing "Adieu Brindavoine". In itself, the album is above average, in fact fairly entertaining and endearing, but despite the considerable technical prowess behind it, it treats the reader to a familiar story.

Thankfully, the epilogue, "La Fleur au Fusil" ("The Flower in the Rifle") hints in a different direction, as it puts the writer/artist's thoughts on Great War center stage. Considering the strength of an offering like Tardi's "It was the War of the Trenches", it becomes clear that the album is all the better for its inclusion. Starting out with an acquaintance of Lucien recounting his last days and the tragic conditions he ended his life in, it's clear that the reader won't be treated to another adventure story, and that the ten following pages aim for a completely different effect.

In many ways, Brindavoine's service shows him the war as seen by Celine and Remarque, as well as Tardi's own grandfather. The reader reconnects with Lucien just several months after the events of "Adieu", but Tardi offers a completely different character. Brindavoine's short hair and previously gaunt stature seems downright sickly and poised for short and messy death, the fate that his companion shares in the opening of the flashback. As the grenade bursts towards Lucien carrying his wounded friend, Tardi illustrates it as a typical comic book special effect, represented chiefly by bright colors and bold type face. What separates the writer/artist's work is the expressionism that the senseless death carries, as Brindavoine emerges from the smoke painted in water colors before coming to grips with the situation.

This short sequence of only four panels makes all the difference even from the rich, if somewhat minimalist  longer story that preceded it. Brindavoine suffers a nervous breakdown right after, which turns the story to another flashback, followed by a long dream sequence depicted with a powerful surrealistic streak. Tardi feels so confident in his abilities that he goes to show his protagonist remembering a brief idyll at the start of the war in Russia (exhibiting the last of his "Adieu Brindavoine" self), followed by scenes of his recruitment before the disillusionment fully set in. These somewhat typical flashbacks are quickly set aside, as the writer/artist links them to his protagonist's earliest happy memory of playing a soldier for his parents' sake, before confronting his last patriotic feelings in a scene that borders on operatic.

To see Brindavoine find solace in a church with other deserters, making friends with the German that the French company proceeds to murder from behind upon entering the premises, exhibits a much more complex worldview then that shown by having Olga Vogelgesang as the antagonist beforehand. Thus, like millions of young men sharing his fate in the Great War, Tardi has his protagonist come of age in a way that damages him for life. Lucien is too smart to accept the reasons given for war and the behavior proposed by military as a way of coping with it, but at the same time powerless to stop the conflict, which in many ways rounds him out as the man cynical enough to confront Adele Blanc-Sec on even ground.

With the addition of "The Flower in the Rifle" epilogue, Tardi felt he could use Brindavoine to help revive Adele from the cryogenic sleep she was put to at the conclusion of "Mummies on Parade". The writer/artist felt that the Great War was no place for a female lead, deciding to preserve her adventures for its aftermath, where she could be joined by his other adventurer, whose colorful youth was cut short by the conflict. Simply put, Tardi's strong feelings on the matter benefited bringing together both of his serials, and contributed to the form by producing some of the most passionate comics art on the subject.

"Adieu Brindavoine", a very interesting piece of genre fiction that ended up serving as a prequel to "Adele Blanc-Sec" was serialized in America in the pages of "Cheval Noir" anthology #24-28, with the English translation of "The Flower in the Rifle" epilogue appearing in the 29th issue of Dark Horse's anthology.