The Celestial Bibendum
written by Nicolas de Crecy
Not for the faint of heart, Nicolas de Crecy's The Celestial Bibendum is a tour-de-force of illustrative and imaginative visual storytelling, as well as an at times frustrating and bewildering experience in linear narration.
Bizarre, grotesque, beautiful, and appalling all collide to describe the visual brilliance behind The Celestial Bibendum. Trying to find an appropriate handle on de Crecy's style is difficult as it combines vintage Ralph Steadman in tone and atmosphere alongside the 2003 Triplets of Bellville film. Richly detailed and lavishly painted, de Crecy's art is simultaneously disturbing yet instructive, intrusive but also inviting.
The story itself is equally confounding in parts. Narrated by a disembodied, bulbous white head, Celestial Bibendum reveals the adventures, if the term can be used, of Diego the seal pup in the fantastical city of New York-on-the-Seine. Welcomed by a cadre of academics, Diego is tutored and educated as his journey toward the Nobel Prize of Love collides with the Devil and a host of other troubled figures. In many ways, it is quite a difficult text to summarize because de Crecy relies entirely on the visuals to tell the story rather than the illustrations working in tandem with the language itself.
Yet, it is here that Celestial Bibendum has its greatest strengths and de Crecy finds success in challenging the structures of sequential narrative development. Students of French comics will champion de Crecy and Celestial Bibendum for its place in the nation's lengthy canon of wonderful, graphic literature. Although the content can be off-putting to many, the sheer absurdity and wonderful strangeness associated with the book necessitate multiple readings to appreciate and value de Crecy's vision—something admittedly that even a third and fourth read through may not garner for some audiences.
-- Nathan Wilson