The last installment of Benoît Feroumont’s one-shot is in the Journal de Spirou #4075, available to subscribers this week. And Dupuis has released a more extensive preview of the first 17 pages of the upcoming album. So here are some thoughts on the most recent Spirou adventure. (Unlike previous reviews, this is based on my impressions from a single read-through of the magazine serialization, not a more careful evaluation or the actual album edition. I’ve tried to avoid significant spoilers, but there are some details from the beginning, and overall discussion of the story.)
Le Spirou de Feroumont : Fantasio se marie
Dupuis (French), 68 pp.
The headline of the title is that Fantasio is getting married (to Clothilde Gallantine, daughter of a rich and famous fashion publisher), but that’s actually not a big part of the story, which focuses on Spirou’s adventures without his usual partner.
However, we begin with a flashback to World War II Brussels, where a resistance member and her daughter flee their apartment just ahead of the Gestapo. Actually, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem, because they have the ultimate disguise: a magic necklace (in three parts) that can make them younger! However, German soldiers catch the mother before she has a chance to use it, arrest her and take the necklace.
In the present day, one part of the necklace is owned by Madame Gallantine, mother of Fantasio’s girlfriend. But just as Spirou and Fantasio are visiting her office, it is stolen by a female cat burglar. They try to stop the theft, but fail because Fantasio is too preoccupied with his sweetheart.
In the wake of this debacle, Fantasio announces that he’s moving in with Clothilde, out of the house he and Spirou share, and that they’re getting married. He’ll also take a job with Madame Gallantine’s publishing group, so he won’t regularly be going on adventures with Spirou anymore, either. No sooner has he left, though, before Seccotine shows up to take his place (as seen in this translated excerpt). So while Fantasio prepares for the wedding, it’s up to Spirou and Seccotine to investigate the theft and track down the other pieces of the necklace.
Most of the rest of the comic is a series of chases and heists, where our heroes tangle as much with a trigger-happy cop as with the daring robbers. But the case turns out to have more personal connections and consequences for both Spirou and Fantasio…
Overall, it’s an exciting and entertaining adventure, full of action and colorful characters. Only the ending is abrupt and a bit of an anticlimax, with everything resolved literally by magic. This could be part personal taste: Magic occurs regularly in the Spirou series – though not in Franquin’s albums – but I’ve never felt it fits particularly well into the universe. In any case, here it stands out as a not-very-well integrated or motivated element of the story. It’s mainly just a MacGuffin – an excuse for why everyone is chasing the necklace – but introducing magic raises many more issues than it addresses, and can’t help but draw focus from more important things in the adventure.
One of those things is the role of women in the story (an early working title was Spirou et les femmes, “Spirou and the Women”): apart from Spirou and Fantasio, every other significant character is female. For the most part this feels quite natural and organic, and if it should occasionally feel contrived, consider that there are many Spirou albums without any female characters! (It’s quite possible that there are more female characters in this album than in the whole rest of the series taken together, which is pretty sad.) It also helps that Feroumont instills them with personality and variety too often lacking in comics.
Among them is Seccotine, who is very well captured: smart, modern, gung-ho verging on reckless, something of a menace to anyone around her. She contrasts delightfully with Spirou, who is here presented as a bit of a throwback to an earlier age: morally upstanding and gentlemanly, but not quite up to date when it comes to women’s liberation or technology (Fantasio was the one who set up their wi-fi). At the same time, Feroumont provides him with a family background that differs significantly from any other version, and with one point in particular that has already proven controversial. I think it works, taken on its own terms, although there’s not enough space given to really develop it. With the “one-shot” concept more or less abandoned as a restriction, perhaps it could be explored in a follow-up?
Fantasio is also pretty much in character (Feroumont seems in part inspired by Yves Chaland’s take on him), although the way he is drawn looks a little odd. Disgracefully, Spip is almost entirely absent from the album, appearing in only a couple of panels.
I’ve held off on saying too much about the art, as it’s so much a question of taste. It’s certainly different from the traditional style of the series, but after one-shots illustrated by Schwartz, Parme, and Téhem it doesn’t feel to me like too radical a departure. I find the style nicely clear and simple, with charming characters, more cartoon than ligne claire. (Feroumont also works in animation.)
All in all, I found this a very enjoyable album, and up until shortly before the end I would have ranked it as the second-best one-shot so far (only behind Émile Bravo’s Journal d’un ingénu). However, the ending is a serious let-down, failing to pull together the various strings in a satisfying manner, and reduces my estimation and overall grade. Still a very solid album by Feroumont nevertheless, and certainly recommended for fans of the series.