A shaggy dog graphic novel about love and loss, Nicholas De Grécy’s Salvatore: Transports of Love (NBM) is an inventively rambling story about a lovelorn mechanic dog’s efforts to build the means that will get him across the ocean to his long-lost lover and the misadventures of a myopic mama sow who gives birth to a brood of piglets, only to lose one in the city sewers. Collecting two of the original albums published in France, Transports of Love proves a delightful blend of sharp whimsical writing (lovingly conveyed by translator Joe Johnson) and visually inventive cartoonish action tinged with a sometimes surprising bittersweetness. After reading NBM’s last published funny animal graphic novel, the most recent entry in the pitch black Dungeon series, I was happily taken aback by the first volume in this charming comic graphic series.
Transports is set in an animal universe where humans interact with (and occasionally devour) the intelligent creatures that they live alongside. As the series begins, Amandine, our very pregnant pig heroine, is recently widowed and in need of some auto repair. She drives her vehicle up a treacherous mountain road to Salvatore, a renowned canine car mechanic who charges dearly for his services to anyone who manages to successfully wend their way up the slopes. Unknown to his customers, Salvatore has been stealing parts from their cars to cobble together a vehicle that he can take to South America where he can reunite with Julie, the bitch of his dreams. He’s a thief, but a thief with romantic intent.
Pregnant Amandine’s Magoo-like vision repeatedly puts her and her children in comic peril (in one memorable sequence she winds up driving her car off the mountain and onto a flying jet), while Salvatore’s obsessive quest to build his vehicle leads him to an attempted art theft of a bull’s Duchamp-ian sculpture made from a Bentley’s engine part. Through both storylines, the two characters humorously and philosophically ruminate on thwarted love, both motherly and romantic. As an amusing side plot, we’re treated to newborn piglet Frank’s travails in the sewers and his adoption by a buxom Goth lady cat. There’s also a scene where a satchel of Amandine’s piglets is mistaken for a bomb left by terrorists that leads us to a priceless image of flying baby pigs.
De Crécy’s loose-limbed art is reminiscent of Bill Plympton (especially in those panels where he shows his characters rapidly moving or reacting), though he doesn’t play as fast and loose with his characters’ bodies as Mister Plymptoon. His expressive treatment of his comically emotive characters carries Salvatore through its more absurdist digressions — and keeps us rooting for its inventive canine hero and its hapless porcine matron. Loopy and rueful, philosophical and slapstuck, Salvatore is the best kind of grown-up fable. You will believe a pig can fly. . .