I don’t know about you, but I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the bad guys. There’s just so much work that goes into being a villain that never gets praised. Sure, everyone cheers when Superman disables the doomsday device but does anyone ever appreciate the craftsmanship that went into making that device in the first place? I do. So you can imagine my delight when I learned that Titan Comics and Statix Press had a fresh graphic novel all about fiction’s first supervillain in The Wrath of Fantômas, written by Olivier Bocque with art and colors by Julie Rocheleau and translated into English by Edward Gauvin.
If you’ve never heard of the fiendish Fantômas, that’s probably because you don’t speak French. First created by French writers Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre in 1911, the character of Fantômas is a criminal genius and master of disguise. Known for the depravity of his crimes, Fantomas has appeared in over 43 novels, 15 films, and of course countless comic books. The Wrath of Fantômas is the latest interpretation of the icon. Full of ruthless plots, The Wrath of Fantômas is certainly a take to remember.
Set in turn of the century France, The Wrath of Fantômas opens with the cold-blooded murder of a mother and child and it only gets more twisted from there. Fantômas is a villain with a Capital ‘V.’ In the pages of this graphic novel, we see this masked killer maim, murder, and steal. It’s not hard to see how this character captured France’s imagination in days past. His audacious crimes are as shocking and sickly satisfying as ever.
Of course, a villain is only as good as their opposite number. In this book, we get two. French detective Juve is hot on Fantômas trail, pursuing the madman with bulldog tenacity. Joining Juve in his hunt is his adopted son Jérôme Fandor. Orphaned by Fantomas at an early age, Fandor now works as an investigative reporter and part-time adventurer, think Tin Tin, but with better style. Together this pair attempt to stop Fantômas’ reign of terror. If only it were that simple.
Despite its grisly subject matter, The Wrath of Fantômas is a gorgeous book. The world of Fantômas is masterfully rendered by Julie Rocheleau. Her almost geometric style strikes the eye in just the right way, filling the comic’s pages with sharp angles and bold profiles. This goes for especially for the title character. Fantômas wears many faces over the course of the story, each one radically changing his profile. When not masked or otherwise disguised, Rocheleau depicts the titular rogue as a living silhouette. Even at his most vulnerable, we never truly know Fantômas.
What strikes me most about The Wrath of Fantômas is just how well it works in the comic medium. For a character over a century old Bocque and Rocheleau certainly made Fantômas feel right at home on the comic page. His heinous crimes are lifted directly from the novels and woven into an original tale. The result is a cross-cultural mishmash of old school pulp and modern sensibility. In a time where superheroes and true crime dominate to pop culture landscape, Fantômas just makes sense. But for all the gold of Paris, you’re not going to want to put this book down. The Wrath of Fantômas is a blast from the past that you don’t want to miss.
The Wrath of Fantômas is available in comic book stores and digital retailers everywhere on February 13, 2019.
The Wrath of Fantômas
The Wrath of Fantômas is a blast from the past that you don’t want to miss. For all the gold of Paris, you’re not going to want to put this book down.