Alone by Chaboute
Alone opens with a faraway shot of an ocean-scape. Waves move, break, and slap down over the surface. The lines are reminiscent of Herge’s Gillot 303 work, which in turn was a homage to Hokusai’s The Great Wave over Kanagawa. A bird appears over the horizon, far in the distance. Comics are often compared to movies, but Chaboute’s opening sequence, because of its use of the same rectangular panel, each the size of half a page, feels like sitting in a darkened theatre, maw opening for popcorn. Over proceeding panels the bird gets bigger and bigger. It is a seagull, and it lands on the railing of a lighthouse.
This is the second graphic novel I’ve read recently that prominently features a lighthouse, the first one being Hicksville by the Eisner-award winning artist Dylan Horrocks. Lighthouses are a strange architecture, and provide subliminal imagery, as evinced by Enid Blyton novels and Virginia Woolf. The tower in Tarot is associated with sudden, disruptive, revelation, and potentially destructive change.
The tale that Chaboute tells us references the power of the imagination, words, and images, and uses this theme’s reflexive relationship with comics, to showcase his incredible draughtsmanship. It can also be read as a subtle reference to that classic novel of French literature, Victor Hugo’s The Humpback of Notre Dame.
Like those small animation shorts that often win Oscars, Alone tugs deeply at the heart strings. You feel so incredibly sad and happy for the protagonist of the novel, that when it’s over, you hug the book and cry.