An early animal-populated graphic novel by the creator of Abelard and Bubbles & Gondola, Renaud Dillies’ Betty Blues (NBM) tells the story of a busted romance between jazz trumpeter Rice Duck and his impulsive girlfriend Betty. Wooed away from the musician by a wealthy cat named Patton, the shapely bird learns to regret her choice, but not until after her ex- has fled the world of jazz and gotten entangled in a dangerous plot against an industrialist pig.
Looser and more digressive than his immigrant fable Abelard, Betty Blues proves a melancholy examination of the ways that a single selfish act can impact a cast of others. On learning of Betty’s unfaithfulness, for instance, Rice Duck tosses his trumpet off a bridge where it lands on the head of a middle-aged bird on holiday with his wife. We periodically return to the couple and the fate of that trumpet, half expecting it to wend its way back to Rice — though Dillies is beyond such easy contrivances. Our hero will return to music, but it won’t necessarily save him.
Dillies’ art style — which owes to “Krazy Kat” creator George Herriman — is a trace more deliberately rough-hewn that it is in his later work. His lyrical sense of visual composition remains top-notch, though, most notably in a dream sequence where Rice is lectured by his trumpet for tossing it into the drink. It’s a precursor to the more elaborate dreamscapes of the much less story-bound Bubbles & Gondola, which moved into full-blown Fellini-esque fantasia. Here, however, Dillies’ storytelling is closer to earlier Fellini fare (there’s even a reference to Nino Rota’s theme from La Strada) with its bluesy take on human romance.
Recommended for those who think talking animals don’t always have to just be funny animals.Powered by Sidelines