1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 2 May 2006
One of Enki Bilal's most famous creations, which explores a future Dystopia in which corrupt politicians, extra terrestial phenomena and Egyptian gods co-exist in dubious harmony.
Beautifully drawn and coloured, it is a must-have for any comic fan, especially for one who is fond of the french school. Despite the 3 or so decades which have elapsed since its appearance it remains socially relevant as the recently released film based on the book (Immortal) proves.
1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Make no mistake about it: Bilal has a wonderful style as a graphic artist. I love to look at his art. Unfortunately, he did not stop there and tried to write a genuine sci-fi story.
I got this series when it first came out in France and was learning French, so had looked at the pictures and was intrigued to get into the story. Alas, dictionary in hand, I went through slowly and carefully and found it, well, stupidly unbelievable, with stilted dialogue, little hard sci-fi that reflected some current trend in reality (what can make sci-fi great literature), and silly characters with no resonance whatsoever.
So, if you just want to look at the images, I wd give this five stars - easily. Bilal's sense of scene and the atmosphere of decadence, the acuity of his characters' poses, and a mysteriousness that runs thru his work are wonderful. However, the writing is so bad as to be laughable, which a recent re-reading reinforced for me. Moreover, the Egyptian Gods are props and equally boring, without any dimension that makes them interesting in any quirky way.
Not recommended as a sci-fi experience, tho it is fun to flip thru as a visual extravaganza. Bilal should be an illustrator for a good writer.
4 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Originally published between 1980-92, the three books by Bosnian-French artist/writer/filmmaker Bilal that comprise this trilogy are collected here in a very nicely printed and bound volume. There's no doubt that they are a stunning achievement in illustration, however it has to be said that they are also a massive disappointment in storytelling. Set in a dystopian future in which the world appears to have reverted into some kind of city-state system, most of the first two books take place in Paris. The city's urban core belongs to the rich and powerful, and zones of increasing poverty and desperation radiate outward. Bilal's dense, detailed artwork is perfectly suited to capturing the dirty, grim cityscape, with crumbling buildings and train stations, ragtag people, and battered trains and planes. The fascist ruling elite are very distinctive, with uniforms and color schemes lifted straight from the Nazi palate and German iconography, accented by garish face paint rendering them horrorshow clowns.
The trilogy opens with a mysterious pyramid containing the pantheon of ancient Egyptian gods hovering over Paris. It seems they need fuel for their pyramid-craft and are negotiating with the fascist governor to supply them (gods who are hostage to fossil fuels, hmmmm) . It is these gods and their inscrutable machinations which drive the story (what story there is) forward, notably, the god Horus' desire to create a new world order. The vehicle for this is Nikopol, a man in stasis who pops out of a space capsule which falls to Earth over Paris (you'd think they'd have built in guidance systems to avoid populated areas). The body of this former dissident becomes the host to Horus, as the ancient god attempts to change the world.
This is all set up within the first part of the first book, and events grow rapidly more nonsensical as the story continues. Bilal has a gift for interesting notions, but is totally incapable of tying them together into any kind of coherent vision. Those who aren't adverse to impressionistic narrative may not mind this, but I found it pretentious and ultimately unsatisfying. There are plenty of funny little moments, such as the Egyptian gods playing Monopoly, or a little creature who lurks in a bar sink, cleaning glasses. There are also plenty of neat ideas about politics, such as the various turf wars in London between various ethnic groups, or the unholy industrial-religious alliance who rules over Equator City. But there are also many more bizarre elements which remain unexplained. The only robot in the book is a very capable AI-enabled construct who falls from the sky with Nikopol, why aren't there others? Why is the telepathic cat green? What are the gargoyle-like cherubs who are multiplying in Notre Dame all about? What's up with the giant egg bombardment in London? There are far too many scenes which don't seem to serve any narrative purpose, and seem to exist solely for Bilal's own amusement.
It also doesn't help that a lot of the dialogue and writing is really clunky and bad. This may be due to the translation, but I suspect that it's more to do with Bilal overextending himself. He's got an excellent visual style, but he should leave the writing to others -- for example, his collaborations with Pierre Christian are far better works. Overall, nice to look at, but not to actually read.
Note: Bilal wrote and directed a 2004 film called "Immortal" based on parts of the trilogy. It's almost entirely CGI , and according to the reviews I've read, visually stunning and totally incomprehensible.