‘The City of Belgium’ is set in the same nocturnal universe as Brecht Evens’ big breakthrough ‘The Wrong Place’, but the aftertaste is so much nastier. In a riot of colour and impressions, Evens shows himself to be both a master of his uniquely fantastic style and at capturing the mental darkness that masquerades as light-hearted.
Aldo has been twenty-eight for three hundred years. Despite that lengthy period of time, he still does not have very good social skills. His whole family has been dead a long while and nobody believes he is immortal.But then he spots someone on television and recognises him from an encounter two hundred years ago.
Glitter, glamour, love, jealousy, intrigue, tears and above all lots of pink: this is Maarten Vande Wiele at his best. His elegant, black brush strokes give playful expression to a world he clearly adores: that of 'Dynasty' and other vintage soap series.
Maarten De Saeger confirms his status as a top talent.
In order to run away from her worries, Ines moves to her late grandfather’s farm in the Ardennes. One day a tramp appears on her doorstep who introduces himself as John. Ines offers him a bed for the night, but it soon becomes clear that the wandering eccentric is not in any great hurry to leave.
Masterfully composed by an enlightened illuminator
Terres de legende
A cross between a coming-of-age story and a social satire. This colourful, hilarious and tragic graphic novel is about identity and humanity, about not very intelligent design, about yesterday and tomorrow. With ‘Papa Zoglu’, Simon Spruyt has shown once again that he is one of the most ingenious and funniest comic-book creators in Flanders.
In unconnected short texts, Ruth Mellaerts draws the reader into familiar situations, memories, thoughts and feelings. The interaction between words and illustrations lifts the book to a higher level and creates calm and beauty as well as words to ruminate on.
What is love? Is it still possible in this day and age to go through life as a couple? This exuberant and multifaceted piece that deliberately unsettles the reader offers the authors' destabilising, crazy and brilliant take on those universal questions.
Fantomia’ provides hours of viewing pleasure, with lots of silliness, creativity and visual spectacle. Reviewers have compared the artist to the likes of ATAK, Basil Wolverton and medieval painter Jeroen Bosch.
This comic book’s recognisability has a comforting effect that radiates a warm feeling of gratitude.
Ilah portrays relationships between men and women in a way that says more than an exhaustive analysis. Her short comics are both candid and subtle, true-to-life and dramatically adapted, apparently nonchalant and virtuoso, modest and self-assured. Ilah’s slick austerity is the perfect graphic style for her favourite subjects, such as love, sex, steak and fries and glasses of wine.
As a physical object one of the most surprising comic books of the last few years
Ward Zwart and Enzo Smits evoke the atmosphere of endless boredom in which teenagers sometimes find themselves. Zwart creates fabulous things with a pencil. His dreamy and accurate drawings of joyless details and gloomy faces create a slightly nostalgic universe.
Sublime, sketch-like artwork by Mannaert, with sharp dialogue
The American Weegee’s street photographs made him world famous. Wauter Mannaert and Max de Radiguès turn the photographer into a man of flesh and blood and make you identify with him, so his rather tragic fate hits all the harder.
When widower Anton breathes his last breath and goes looking for his wife Betty in the ‘thereafter’, nothing is quite as he expected. Jan Truyens’ debut is nothing less than an art project: an enormously rich book, with nods in the direction of the ‘Divina Commedia’.
A book in which everything is just right. The best comic book of 2016
De Groene Amsterdammer
Wide Vercnocke subtly builds up a story in which, through shaman’s sessions, the tragedy of the equipment manager at an athletics club is connected to the iconic narwhal and its spear-like tusk. A surprising and highly original story about physicality and rejecting absolute rationality.
A masterpiece of atmosphere and empathy, a must-have book of the year
‘Mikel’ tells a true story, based on the experiences of the author, Mark Bellido, who spent four years protecting Basque politicians against ETA. With her brilliant use of colour, Judith Vanistendael depicts the light of a wild and rainy Basque Country.
A poetic comic book that fully spotlights Cromheecke’s drawing talent
Luc Cromheecke and Bruno De Roover depict brief scenes from the life of the cheerful bon vivant Daubigny, based on the letters he wrote to his wife or friends on his travels. The result is a wonderfully relaxing book that paints a beautiful picture of the artist as a human being.
Gijsemans can shout if he wants to, but he's more than happy to whisper.
The Herland Scotland
Gijsemans’ drawings, washed out but somehow lush, too, are tender and telling, from the doleful curve of Hubert’s back to the workaday treads of the stairs in his apartment building. In this gentle account, Hubert is neither noble aesthete nor creepy loner, simply a man who likes pottering around looking at art.
Following a stroke, Louis can no longer live at home with his wife. Before he has to leave for the care home, the whole family wants to give him one last unforgettable day. Michaël Olbrechts sketches a very convincing portrait of an average dysfunctional family.
His most personal and at the same time most universal book
'Abadaringi’ is a sketchbook and an intriguing documentary about the genocide in Rwanda. Janssen draws the landscapes and settings he encounters, and creates portraits of the people he speaks to. He also tells his own story, in handwritten notes. A phenomenal piece of journalism.
An ultramodern Romeo and Juliet that takes place in two different time dimensions. Dutch artist Hanco Kolk and Fleming Kim Duchateau each tackle one dimension. There is just enough friction between the two styles of drawing to maintain the tension.
With a few very assured brushstrokes and a unique use of colour which adopts a different palette for each story, Gisquière succeeds in creating a sense of alienation while at the same time writing atmospheric, poetic stories.
The wave of migration in the 1960s and 70s in a child-size format
Grandpa Monji tells his granddaughter and grandson the story of how he, a Tunisian, ended up in Belgium. The young reader learns about another time, a time when people moved thousands of kilometres for work, and a marriage between a Belgian woman and an ‘outsider’ encountered a great deal of suspicion. A plea for mutual understanding, and a sensitive book about respect, with a dash of humour.
Arnon, a guy who flitted from one romantic conquest to another before his death at a young age, looks back at his brief life. One by one, Maarten De Saeger tells the story of various people who played a role in his life. Gradually it all comes together to form a mosaic that does not present Arnon in the best light.
Without grand gestures but all the more impressive for that
At the age of 56, Ephameron’s father was struck by primary progressive aphasia, which meant that he lost his speech and language and gradually succumbed to dementia. ‘Us Two Together’ is his daughter’s autobiographical account of the past ten years.
The quirky little sisters Kinky and Cosy manage to wreak havoc with all their naivety and innocence. Three small panels – that’s all Nix needs for a daily dose of nonsensical and politically incorrect humour.
Anneleen, Bert, Bavo and Astrid form the Honey Honeys, an ABBA tribute band. As their success grows, their lives start to run increasingly in parallel with those of the original ABBA members, with all the associated drama. Maarten Vande Wiele’s unabashed love for ABBA leaps off the pages.
Every page reveals an eccentric and original cartooning mind at work.
The Comics Journal
Olivier Schrauwen’s grandfather Arsène leaves for the Belgian colony of Congo in 1947, where he and his cousin Roger have planned a hugely ambitious project: a utopia of modernism, right in the middle of the jungle. Sometimes funny, slightly surreal and often beautiful.
Blond quiff, jutting chin, self-confident grin and completely ignorant of any taboos – that’s him, the one and only Cowboy Henk! With their most popular hero, the illustrator Herr Seele and his writer Kamagurka have created a mixture of Mr Clean, Adonis and a hillbilly, entirely in the tradition of the Belgian Surrealists.
El Pocero, a filthy rich estate agent, loses everything overnight when the property market collapses. And Marinaleda, a Spanish village organised as a cooperative, is led by an extremely left-wing mayor. ‘El Mesías’ tells, in uninked pencil drawings, the tale of people who are searching for something, in a story that actually keeps hope alive.
The drawings of Johan De Moor and the text of Gilles Dal form an organic unit. Dal’s dark, uncompromising text screams the despair of a mid-life crisis. The constantly thudding question is: is this all there is?
A dark fairy tale filled with troubling implications and haunting illustrations
‘Panther’ is an unsettling graphic novel about a little girl and her imaginary feline companion. Iconoclastic in his cartooning and page layouts, subtle in his plotting, and deft in his capturing of the human experience, Brecht Evens has crafted a tangled, dark masterwork.
Unique in the stream of books published to mark the centenary of World War One
On 19 August 1914, in a matter of hours, the university city of Leuven transformed from the Belgian military headquarters into a city occupied by German soldiers. Soon after that, Leuven was reduced to ashes. Gerolf Van de Perre and Johanna Spaey portray these dramatic early days of World War I in powerful, poetic images and words.
‘Sugar’ is a comic story about life as seen through the eyes of a cat. In masterfully drawn black-and-white pictures, Serge Baeken juggles with the narrative structure and page layout in this quirky and appealing graphic novel.
A surprisingly good debut from another promising Belgian
De Groene Amsterdammer
Filip tells his four children about Great Granny, who was born almost a century before in the Dutch island colony of Java. Author Michaël Olbrechts blends a piece of family history with the wider social context and does so in a very mature and understated way, with little moments of humour and nostalgia.
Wide Vercnocke is the master of physicality: he knows better than anyone how to depict bodies, muscles and the power of the physical form. Using fine lines and full planes of colour, he creates a unique style, in which characters never look exactly the same twice.
The design is soft and clear, the jokes are cynical and as hard as nails ****
Sometimes the culprit, sometimes the victim, Dickie always finds himself in awkward and embarrassing situations. The contrast that develops between the stylised drawings and the often coarse jokes creates a balance that is rarely found elsewhere.
In a loose, fluid and sketch-like style, Joris Vermassen draws a story based around important themes: saying goodbye, things coming to an end, disappointment and grief. And yet ‘Mad with Joy’, like the statue of the same name, is an ode to life.
A stunning debut by an instant grande dame of the Belgian comic strip
The locals of Vierves-sur-Haynes practically worship the stag Gérard, who draws many tourists to the Ardennes village every year. When François accidentally runs Gérard over and kills him, the fat hits the fire. ‘The Miracle of Vierves’ proved Inne Haine’s credentials as a very talented teller of tragicomic tales. An extremely strong debut.
A deceptively light story about absent parents and a lonely child
In this highly acclaimed debut, Shamisa Debroey displays a graphic maturity that is unexpected for such a young author. This poetic and nuanced portrait of a difficult parent–child relationship is a strong and exceptionally self-assured first step.
The most daring comic-book debut in Flanders in recent years
Wide Vercnocke’s poetic ode to laziness allows him to go to town with his narrative and graphic skills, making ‘My Muse Lies on the Settee’ both narcissistic and ironic, lazy and virtuoso, literary and visual. This multifaceted book is a most impressive debut.
The polder village of Doel, situated in the shadow of a nuclear reactor near the port of Antwerp, has been a pawn in the power games of successive politicians since the 1960s. Jeroen Janssen became fascinated by those who stayed behind and by their stories. ‘Doel’ is an impressive account of a personal journey of discovery in a village whose fate has long been uncertain.
Vandenbroucke’s distinctive work blends the highbrow with the low, drawing equally from Gordon Matta-Clark’s site-specific artwork and the Three Stooges’ slapstick timing. With a knowing wink at the reader, Vandenbroucke continuously uncovers something to laugh about in the stuffiness and pretentiousness of the art world.
This sparkling, beautifully designed book is a real revelation.
This humorous and text-free story is extremely fast-paced. De Decker’s humour explores the boundaries of the (im)possible, but remains disarmingly innocent at the same time. Otto’s world is one of weird trains of thought and unexpected twists and turns. Its warm heart immediately draws the reader in.
A coherent and bittersweet meditation on family foibles
Karel, Valère and Roger are three brothers who each need to come to terms with their own demons. Reading about their troubled lives, we get a sense of just how cruel and thankless as well as enchanting and hilarious the world can be: extremes we have no choice but to accept.
A delightful piece to read and look at, with international allure
Verbeke and Verplancke offer a parody of the sovereign power of the artist in modern society. At a more abstract level, this story, taking place in the limited confines of a ski lift, is about an unsympathetic society that demands the artist to justify him- or herself. The result is a parable you will not easily forget.
David is diagnosed with cancer of the larynx, a terminal form of cancer that means he will soon be unable to speak. Judith Vanistendael zooms in on David and the three women who surround him: his wife and his two daughters. A touching and subtle book that compassionately depicts the fruitless struggle to find the meaning of life.
In short sketches of usually just one strip, Billy Bob, a trainee cowboy, and Woody, his somewhat tougher friend, roam around the Wild West, doing what a cowboy should do: killing Indians. A hilarious and challenging comic for young readers.
Steven Dupré has given his unbridled imagination free rein.
Steven Dupré is a craftsman: his assured, very natural drawing style is of the highest quality. In addition, as a scriptwriter the author has mastered the art of taking his readers with him to a parallel universe, by means of subtle, profound stories.
A fantasmagoria without balloons in which a man sets out on a surreal quest in search of his animality
In this wordless tale, the young human boy Mowgli lives alone in the jungle. He soon feels lonely and goes in search of a soulmate. Mowgli’s quest is full of slapstick humour with bloody violence and elephant droppings, but also contains reflections on philosophical questions like individuality and complementarity.
Murphy is an anti-hero: an astronaut who continually has bad luck. In his miserable space adventures, Charlotte Dumortier is able to experiment fully with colour, framing and page division. The young artist pulls out all the stops. She lets fly with lay-out, rhythm and colouring.
Adriaenssens brings the insanity of World War I to life: the battlefields pocked with craters, the villages and towns shot to smithereens, the harrowing conditions in the trenches and the absurd orders of authorities, who had not the faintest idea what they were doing. The powerful story is told with muted shades and concise text.
‘The Making Of’ is a work of art, an absolute gem from start to finish. Evens captures emotions, both large and small, along with funny little human traits and tics. His story feels very familiar, with all of its absurdity. There’s not one single page that will leave you indifferent.
One of the most original books of the year, by a long way
With each of these seven short stories, Olivier Schrauwen changes his style: he uses different colour palettes, makes stories without words, composes pages as miniatures instead of the usual grid layout. A unique exercise in style by an extraordinary talent.
In Janssen’s extravagant visual idiom, Africa is an intoxicating place.
This picaresque story about Bakamé and Mpyisi, which contains plenty of sex and black humour, is a perfect illustration of what drives people and can make them so unappealing. The hare’s cunning, lust and egocentrism are at the centre of this story, but other characters’ traits are also explored in depth. A satirical look at a world in which desire, violence and magic are inextricably entwined.
Vande Wiele has illustrated a knowingly ridiculous yet loving portrayal of a world he clearly adores, bringing an elegant black line to the page as he pays tribute to the most superficial of the brilliantly superficial.
This is not simply a comic book for adults – it is literature.
For thirty years, Adan Diss has been waiting for San Borondón, a mythical island that appears on the horizon every once in a while. He used to have his whole life ahead of him. He could have been a butcher or a doctor, but he chose to become nothing. He believes patience is all he needs to find happiness. Waiting for an Island is about you and me, about our rays of hope and our daydreams, which in the worst case can become real demons.
A pink alien discovers the world without saying much. His sense of amazement creates ample opportunities for successful jokes. The enormously surreal situations from Letzer’s brain are taken to a very high level by Cromheecke’s clear and deadly efficient style.
A powerful look into the complexities of the human heart and prejudice *****
Comic Heroes Magazine
An enjoyable, flowing and exceptionally readable graphic novel about the author’s relationship with a Togolese political refugee. The story consists of two parts, in which we see the same relationship from two different perspectives. The visual narrative is vivid and follows a rhythm that matches the story perfectly.
Linthout’s choice to leave his pencil-work bare, is a masterstroke
Willy Linthout has created a powerful, groundbreaking graphic novel that grabs the reader by the throat. From the very first page, he draws us into the difficult processes that await Charles as he lurches between loneliness, grief, incomprehension and love, often losing sight of the difference between reality and fiction.
Upon its publication, ‘The Wrong Place’ set off artistic fireworks in the Flemish graphic novel scene. This comic strip is bursting with artistic ambition: Brecht Evens has introduced a new and daring style with his expressive drawings and powerful choices of colour.
Adventures that are very recognizable for anybody who has gone through babyhood
Forbidden Planet International
This comic book series is a contemporary, humorous stop-comic about a young couple and their girl twins. The neurotic father, quick-witted mother and two pig-headed children live in a pink bunker and drive a pink tank. But apart from their eccentric residence and means of transport, they lead a perfectly ‘normal’ life. At least they try.
Fantastic. Evens' linework is wonderful... but his coloring is even better.
‘Night Animals’ contains two dreamlike, wordless stories that transform everyday experiences into fantastic journeys to strange new worlds. Brecht Evens surprises with stories and images in which he continually seems to extend the limits of his capabilities.
A collection of five tragicomic short stories about a wealthy father and his physically underdeveloped son. The album evokes the atmosphere of American newspaper comic strips at the beginning of the 20th century. That sweet, dated style gives added intensity to Olivier Schrauwen’s playful nightmares.
A poetic trip and an aesthetic shock that makes your jaw drop
As the title suggests, this book has a very meditative, dreamlike quality. At the beginning of the book, the story seems to consist of short, individual anecdotes. As you read on, it becomes clear that, in spite of the unexpected twists and turns, everything forms a coherent whole in which the ideas flow together seamlessly.
As you read the stories you sometimes have the feeling that you are looking in a mirror.
A graphic novel that reacts to the here and now and is set in our modern multicultural society with all its pros and cons. 'Over to You' is also inextricably linked with Antwerp, the city where the Comic book artist and the scriptwriter have lived all their lives.
A human story without corniness, with an overdose of emotions and identifiability
Although this graphic novel begins as a classic boy-meets-girl story, the tone quickly becomes less cheery. Author Conz chose a visual narration with a limited amount of text, but a great richness of imagery. His dark, expressive pages perfectly fit this loaded story about characters whose past keeps catching up with them.
Humour of the highest class: often absurd and surrealistic, but always sharp
Esther Verkest is possibly the sexiest heroine in the Flemish comic book universe. Bad is too respectable a word for her, mean is an understatement. Kim Duchateau’s lewd heroine lives in an absurd world full of freaks, strange fairytale figures and capricious gnomes.