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Review: The Butchery

The Butchery
The Butchery, Fantagraphics

The press release for French cartoonist Bastien Vivès contains an interesting phrase that perfectly sums up what his new book, The Butchery, is about: “the emotional bloodbath of a romance gone awry.” It’s beautiful in its description and cruel in its promise of delivering a story about how happiness and sadness cannot exist independently from one another.

The Butchery, published by Fantagraphics, centers on a couple that’s experiencing the commonly natural life and death cycle of a relationship. It’s lyrical in its pacing and poetic in its visuals, which come to us as hazy memories of the couple’s pivotal moments. They’re subtle and they show love at its most blissful stage and pain at its most cutting phase.

Reading The Butchery requires reflecting on the unique wounds love and romance have left behind, some wide open and still pulsating, and contemplating just how much of the good and the bad is shared between one’s personal experience and that of the characters in the book. Having a history in failed relationships heightens the range of the book’s emotional spectrum, but there’ something to learn along the way no matter the life experiences brought to the reading.

Vivès keeps to an economical but precise approach to the amount of text in the story. Being that it’s a book the reader is meant to feel, the visuals are given free reign to linger as much as they want while leaving more questions than answers in their passing. Each page only contains about two or three images at most and they’re not bound by panels or any other connecting tissue.

The Butchery

This changes when the book turns into a more metaphorically playful space with its subject matter. After certain events transpire, Vivès resorts to darkly funny, comic strip-like sequences where the results of a fight or a disagreement play out in a way that’s directly in opposition to the vague realities of feelings and communication reserved for the main story.

These interventions go from blunt reactions to bad news to how confusion can manifest in a fantasy of violence and cruelty that one can’t avoid laughing at (if only to keep the tears at bay). They offer a nice break from the all-too real aspects of the relationship’s trials and tribulations and they end up being some of the book’s most memorable sequences.

The Butchery

The Butchery lives up to its title and expands upon the preconceived definitions of the word that gives the book its name. Vivès goes to well-traversed territory regarding love and loss, but he brings a different tool set to explore where our minds often go to when experiencing such things. It’s designed to make readers feel every emotion known to humans in love or who have loved and it leaves you no choice but to keep reading.

Story/Art: Bastian Vivès Translation: Jenna Allen
Overall: 10 Recommendation: Read and get ready for pain…necessary pain

Fantagraphics provided Graphic Policy with a free review copy. The Butchery is on sale now wherever books and comics are sold.

Purchase: comiXologyAmazonKindleBookshopTFAW

Bastien Vives, Balak, and Michael Sanlaville Discuss The Last Man


Bastien Vivès

Richard Aldana is defeating all challenges in the Games, despite his outlandish refusal to use any magic, and relying solely on martial arts. With young Adrian fighting at his side, he’s beginning to look like a likely contender for the Royal Cup.

But in a breathtaking twist, everything changes: this world is not what you thought it was, and Richard Aldana is certainly not who he claimed.

We’re taking part in the Last Man blog tour courtesy of First Second. That’s two weeks of Q&A with the authors of this all new, action-packed series: Bastien Vives, Michael Sanlaville, and Balak!

Bastien Vives studied illustration and animation at the Ecole des Gobelins. After movie-making classes, he dived into comics, and his first title came out in 2007.



Balak (aka Yves Bigerel) works as a storyboard artist, 2D animator and TV show director in France. He works with Marvel Comics on the new digital Infinite Comics brand, as a storyboard artist (Avengers VS X-men with Mark Waid, Guardians of the Galaxy with Brian M. Bendis, Wolverine: Japan’s Most Wanted with Jason Aaron and Jason Latour).

Michael Sanlaville graduated from the Emile Cohl school, and later the Gobelins, after which he followed twin careers in animation (at the Xilam studio) and in comics with Casterman Publishers.

Now, on to the questions!

Michaël Sanlaville

Michaël Sanlaville

Graphic Policy: How did you all come together and come up with Last Man?

Team Last Man: Bastien and Balak met on some otaku internet message board ten years ago, catsuka.com. They were sharing pictures of ladies with huge breasts and talking about comics and anime, like every well balanced human being should. In 2004  Balak went to the Gobelins animation school in Paris, and one year after that Bastien did the same. That’s where they met Michael Sanlaville, that crazy talented guy who was only interested in car chases and punk rock. Bastien and Michael got along so well, they quit Gobelins before the final year to go make comics on their own, as well as together (Hollywood Jan). Three years ago, Bastien reunited the team to make the comic book we all wanted to read when we first started to draw: something featuring adventure, huge breasts, car chases, and punk rock – along with creating characters you care about.

LastMan-Cover-300rgbGP: I’ve read that Last Man was inspired by Japanese shounen manga, video games, and American pop culture, things you enjoyed as kids. What aspects did the series take from each of those? Any specifics as to the inspirations?

TLM: We often say that Last Man is a love letter to 80s and 90s Hollywood action flicks as much as manga. Bastien watches Back To The Future at least twice a month. Michael has Sylvester Stallones name tattooed on his heart. Balak has three identical copies of Tony Scott’s The Last Boyscout DVD, in three different places, just in case. We loved how these stories are so well told. They’re sometime corny, but you’ve got an genuine, earnest energy in this kind of cinema. And even if it’s not the case, that’s how we consumed them as twelve year old boys. It excited our imaginations. We want our reader to feel what we felt when we were watching that kind of movie. And the manga format is, to us, the best way to take the time to create an universe while staying close to the characters, to watch them grow and evolve. In manga you’ve got that earnest feel, too, they’re not afraid to be cheesy. We can be sometime “tongue in cheek” with our influences, but we want to have that genuine, visceral feel about our characters. They’re not puppets, they’re people we want the reader to love.

LastMan2-300dpi_RGBGP: It’s clear King’s Valley’s fantasy setting might differ from other parts of the world of Last Man. How much of the world has been fleshed out for the 12 volume series? Is there a “Last Man bible” of some sorts?

TLM: We actually made some maps of the different places we have seen (or not yet seen) in Last Man‘s universe, like your average fantasy fanboys. The universe is growing, sometime in unexpected out-of-way places, so maybe when it’s all said and done, we will collect all the extra material in a book. Just like the whole story, we have our landmarks, the big events we planned all along, but how we get there is left to our imagination as we go.

Last Man 3 The Chase RGBGP: The series was originally printed in France. Is there anything that might not translate well for an American audience? Anything you’d have changed for each audience?

TLM: Some little things have been adapted, like the food that made Vlad sick in the beginning of The Stranger: in France he ate “raclette” and it was translated to “seafood gumbo.” That’s about it. Wet try first and foremost to entertain ourselves, not thinking about the reader being French or Chinese or American. We wouldn’t change a thing to appeal to a specific or wider audience.

GP: There’s been mention of an animated show and video game. Where are you with those, and when can we expect them?

TLM: The videogame, Lastfight, is almost finished. It will be out at the end of the year on PC and hopefully game consoles.

We’re working with the video game team very closely, they’ve shared the same studio with us since the very beginning. The animated tv show will be a prequel about Richard’s past.  We finished writing the twenty-six scripts and it’s currently  in production.  The first storyboards are being made as we speak. It will be darker than the comic book, quite violent, but a lot of fun too. It will be broadcast on French tv next year. The comic book and the animation can be enjoyed separately, but fans of the comic book will have some crucial insights into very important mysteries when they watch the tv show, and vice versa. In the end, the animation and the comic book will respond to each other in a cool and original way. At least, that’s what we aim to do!

Almost American