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Thursday, 30 May 2013

In Review: Peter Pan by by Régis Loisel

by Régis Loisel
Out: Now (UK and Europe only)
Publisher: Soaring Penguin

The Book: Before he became Peter Pan, before his arrival to Neverland, he was a boy fighting for survival. Born into the suburbs of harsh, Dickensian London, to an alcoholic mother who leaves him in an almost-orphan state, Peter’s only retreat from reality is the fantastical stories given to him by a friendly neighbour — allowing him to escape temporarily from the darkness of the adult world.

Told in language as strong as his mother’s brandy, Peter’s story is no less intoxicating. While nearly devoid of comfort and compassion, Peter’s world becomes rich in magic. Lost fairies, pirates and sirens form a cast both shocking and strangely familiar — this is J.M Barrie’s Peter Pan story for an adult audience.

Outside of Peter Pan - which he spent years working on - French creator Régis Loisel is best known for his work on the best-selling series The Quest of the Time-Bird (La Quete de l’Oiseay du Temps) and has also worked with Disney on various animated films such as Mulan and Atlantis.


The Review: For the first time this six-volume bande dessinée series - which has sold over one million copies in French and has been adapted into a film by Nicholas Duval - has been translated into English and collected in one hardcover, omnibus graphic novel. Through emotive and engaging artwork, Loisel offers a unique take on a well-known tale, a prequel to the original story that offers up a grim and dark world; the type of childhood where staying a child is not an option.


Let's be absolutely clear - this version of Peter Pan is not one you leave lying around for young fans of Tinkerbell and the Lost Boys. Its language, art and storyline offer a complex, multi-layered and very adult take on the Peter Pan mythos, with some twists throughout that might leave you scratching your head but hopefully, in a good way. (I don't want to spoil the surprizes, so I won't be mentioning some aspects of the plot in this review).
The story starts and ends for some characters on the grim, dangerous streets of Victorian London - streets where Peter, estranged from his family, hated by his broken mother, is freed when he encounters the fairy he comes to call Tinkerbell.

Over the course of 300 plus pages we learn how Peter gets to Neverland, his first meeting with Captain Hook, the origin of the Lost Boys - and how the deadly (and we mean deadly) Croc got his Tick. Along the way, we're treated to a sumptuous, beautifully realized and quite haunting story: the artwork alone will delight.
Facing battles with Indians, Pirates, a dangerous storm, encounters with drunken and violent men and women, Peter Pan slowly develops into the character we know from JM Barrie's story - although Loisel prefers to focus on the darker aspects of the tale, and, as mentioned, there are some aspects that will challenge the 'reality' of Peter's tale and suggest, perhaps, a more sinister one to events in this prequel story.

This take will not be to everyone's taste and at times, I suspect the 14 year gestation project of the French version took its toll on some of the plotting of the story - at times, I got the impression that the final twists developed as the story unfolded, rather than being the original plan for the story. But the artwork is truly stunning and despite my reservations about the plot, the story fully deserves this new, English edition.

John Anderson at Soaring Penguin made an inspired choice when he decided to chase the rights for this incredible bande dessine: its English publication is welcome and long overdue. While again stressing this is a tale for adults, I recommend it to our readers.

• Soaring Penguin Press will be debuting Peter Pan with special guest Régis Loisel, the creator of this brilliant series, at BD and Comics Passion in London: www.bdandcomicspassion.co.uk

• Soaring Penguin Press: www.soaringpenguinpress.com
• Facebook: www.facebook.com/SoaringPenguin.Press

Peter Pan by Régis Loisel
Translated by Nicolas Rossert, with Paul Rafferty, Nora Goldberg & Cheryl Anderson
ISBN 9781908030078
Cover Price: £29.99
Format: 336 pages, full colour, hardcover
Rights: UK & European English Print Rights only
Available through Turnaround UK and Diamond Comics UK (Order code: MAY132444)

French Links
• Peter Pan Micro Site (with character outlines, sketch books and more): http://peterpan.ventsdouest.com
• An interview with Loisel: www.bdparadisio.com/intervw/loisel/loisel.htm
• Trailer for the film by Nicholas Duval (official web site: www.peter-movie-2012.com)




• On adapting the story for film: item from France Télévisions Poitou-Charentes

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