Flipping through Previews I had made a note to check out Afrika by Hermann; I didn’t want to commit until I could give it a decent thumbing. It looked solid so I bought my local comic shop’s only copy.
The masterpiece by Belgian comics creator Hermann is available in English for the first time! A misanthropic European expatriate, Dario Ferrer, acts as guardian of a Tanzanian wildlife preserve. Accompanied by Charlotte, a naïve European journalist, Ferrer discovers a village under fire from mysterious agents of the foreign-backed government. Ferrer and Charlotte must fight not only to protect the preserve, but to expose government corruption–and survive to see another day.
Dark Horse, February 29, 2012
Format: FC, 64 pages, HC, 8″ x 11″
Price: $15.99 USD
Age range: 18
Order online: Book Depository, Amazon
This is a classic European graphic novel: 56 pages, slightly oversized, hardcover, contained story. It feels dense, like there’s far more to it than what the page count suggests. This is my first exposure to Hermann and it’s a welcome one.
Ferrer as a person is unlikable and unapproachable, the perfect overlord of an African wildlife preserve. A journalist is dropped into his lap as poachers are hunted. Later they’re both inadvertently involved in a foreign government’s deal with the locals and so end up running for their lives. It’s a solid story: well crafted, wonderful pacing, deep character development. That’s possible because the story adds other elements that don’t have much to do with the main plot but add to the characters and environment, building them up and fleshing them out. Ferrer’s love interest, promises of a new life, government deals. There’s a very cinematic feel to the story and pacing.
While the publisher’s blurb mentions Tanzania no country is mentioned in the work: they even go so far as to say “our neighbour” instead of pinpointing locations. It does have a southern African feel with the range of animals. There is no political message to the book, even though poaching, animal reserves, government land deals and assassination are all part of the story. Much like Africa itself, Hermann presents the elements and it’s up to the reader to take it as it is.
Like the story itself the pages are visually dense. Most pages have a lot of panels, but each is detailed with full backgrounds. Colour is used to define mood very effectively. There’s not a lot of facial expression range in the art but that’s a small complaint. Lush is the best word I can use to describe Afrika’s art.
Even though Dark Horse says it’s 64 pages Afrika contains only 56 pages with no extras. It’s a European work for the North American market and stands well as an introduction to Hermann’s work; a one page biography would have been appreciated. Originally published by SAF in Europe.
Originally published at Comic Book Daily.