Let me start by saying that this has been one of my favourite books ever since I first read a copy many years ago. Every time I read it, it sticks with me long after I turn the last page and it has had a big impact on how I view the graphic medium.
Created by artist and sculptor Mr Clement, this book aims to explore some deep, meaningful subjects in a very unusual and fascinating way. Each right hand page features two panels which often look very similar but, like an animation, move ever so slightly. It proves that the tiniest head movement or shift in the eyes is enough to express all kinds of feelings and noticeable changes in a character. The left hand page is where the text occurs (albeit infrequently). The dialogue/monologue is told in parallel in both French and English, leading to a really interesting debate as to where in the world these characters are (if on a world at all). The artwork, although mainly in black and white, does sometimes splash striking colours to draw the readers’ eye and make them pay special attention to parts of the page.
Well, that’s a good question. You could argue that it’s about everything and nothing, all at the same time. The tale follows the adventures of Astrolapin, a humanoid spacesuit-wearing rabbit (hence being literally called 'Space Rabbit' in French). As he/she travels throughout the (very sparse) world, we meet a variety of other characters who are all a lot more complex than first impressions may suggest. Actually explaining the story in detail is almost impossible as it really needs to be experienced to fully comprehend how well it converts emotions into images. It feels almost like Mr Clement has unloaded his mind onto the page and has released his innermost feelings and thoughts on life, creating an interesting, captivating exploration into this familiar yet entirely unfamiliar environment.
Everyone that reads the book may come out with a different feeling or a different interpretation of each of the characters. I personally see it as a journey through 90s pop culture, while touching on some very interesting aspects such as gay rights, the increase in consumerism and even the way in which pornography was becoming far more ‘accepted’ in mainstream culture in both its production and its distribution. I also see the main character of Astrolapin as an extension of the artist as he/she guides us through this deep and complex world. These things are just a fragment of what I personally have drawn from the book and each time I read it my opinions shift and change. For example, reading it when I was in my late teens was very different to me reading it in my late twenties. The book almost feels as if it grows with time and evolves with the reader.
The book is entirely unique in its approach to storytelling and works as both a work of true art and a deep, complex study of the world around us. Mr Clement has created what I would consider one of the greatest books I have ever read and one that transcends genre and labels. It is a true masterpiece whichever way you look at it and even with its sparse use of words, delves far deeper into our world and our lives than almost any novel I have experienced.
As I have said, the book has stayed with me a long time and is one that I find myself thinking about regularly. It does things I've never seen in comics before or after and really does sit outside of the usual publication spectrum. I consider it a phenomenal masterpiece that crosses many mediums and shows its creator as truly a master of many talents - someone who can break down the complexities of life, and translate them into a beautiful study of who we are and what is going on around us.