The one with the stylish red beret

Jean-Pierre Gibrat, Le Vol du Corbeau (The Raven’s Flight, French 1997)

This two-volume comic would typically be one of those comics I don’t even look at: large format (24x31cm or 9×12 inch), thin back, hard cover, edited in a series, drawing and scenario by the proverbial European white middle-aged male. These were the comics I grew up with,  and I grew out of them when I discovered mangas.

Now I hardly ever returns to this style as it reminds me too much of the old-school  comics from Belgium that were the only thing available during my childhood: Tintin, the smurfs, Spirou and Gaston Lagaffe. Rather boy- or male-oriented. But it’s rather silly to have a prejudice against a certain format, isn’t it?

The library volunteer in charge of comics convinced me to try this one and as I am just starting at the library and want to be friendly I said why not?

The year is 1944 in Nazi-occupied Paris and Americans have just landed on the Normandy beaches. A beautiful French damsel in distress, a brunette with a red beret, is sitting in the prison cell of a local nick waiting for her fate to be decided. She has been arrested for black market on an anonymous tip sent to the French police. Unfortunately for her, instead of ham and preserves, they have found a gun and papers showing that she is a member of the Resistance. The police Commissaire isn’t overly enthusiastic at the idea of giving her to the Nazis as he too is aware that they are losing ground and that scores will be settled unfavorably for him when Paris will be freed. The second person to join our heroine in the cell is a burglar caught red-handed, a charming big-mouthed guy, who soon finds a way for them both to escape through the roofs. Will she follow him?

The plot is very clever and the characters have depth and secrets that make us care about them. The title of the story is ambiguous because each of the words have double entendre. “Le vol” is both the flight and the theft and the blackbird here refers both to the resistance fighters and to the person who denounces by writing an anonymous letter.

It’s classic to have a couple that first get on each other’s nerves gradually fall for each other, but that plot here has a twist I defy anyone to guess. At the beginning I was afraid that the girl was going to be the cliché sexy gal, but she’s a lot more than this. The artwork looks like watercolor to me and brings Paris daily street life really alive and fresh. The tone is a successful combination of suspense, tragedy and comedy until the very last page of this two-volumes series. I’m really glad I tried!

(It seems that the book has been translated to German, Spanish and Danish, but I can’t see any English version so far…)

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3 thoughts on “The one with the stylish red beret

  1. Oh, I liked this one! And I rather like the classic Franco-belgian BD that I grew up with and am rereading today with my boys. I could always see myself in them – perhaps I was a tomboy?

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