J.G. Keely's Reviews > Une Tombe en Béton

Une Tombe en Béton by Antonio Segura
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Aug 28, 2010

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bookshelves: post-apocalyptic, western, comics, euro-comics, reviewed

Hombre fits in with a certain mode of dark anti-hero stories that were coming out of European comics starting in the sixties and coming to a climax in the eighties with Metal Hurtlant, 2000AD, and other anthologies. The world is a deadly place where life has little value, and our emotionally distant hero does everything he can to survive, even as his friends and loves die around him.

Hombre is coming out of the same backlash against idealism that produced Yojimbo, the Spaghetti Westerns, and Revenge Films. It's ironic that this backlash has become, in recent years, idealized in itself, as we can see from so many cliche treatments of the same violent, isolated men.

But Hombre is not without a sense of self-awareness. Our hero constantly strives to be an island, separate from the world, claiming he cares nothing for the lives of those around him, yet despite his best efforts, he finds himself thrown in with people who he grows to grudgingly respect, or even to love.

He tries to protect these people, but in the end, he always ends up alone again. The repetitive nature of the story allows the character to maintain his identity as the gruff loner, resetting at the end like a sit com, but this doesn't really hurt the book.

Each story is a separate entity, exploring different ideas and relationships. They are self-contained (which is important for a comic appearing in anthologies), but taken together, they produce a grander arc.

The whole thing is very Howardian: we have our dark hero, always surviving, like Conan, in a series of thinly related episodes across his entire life, painting a picture of the man, his world, and his experiences. There is also the touch of chauvinism, and though this isn't an erotic comic, it does deal with sex and nudity with more aplomb than an American might, and there is a consistent worship of the feminine form.

It can get a bit silly, with all the toplessness and women caught bathing, but it's not entirely one-sided: there are naked men, too. One problem is that the men are usually drawn with a lot of character, while the women tend to look rather similar (though this improves in later issues).

There are also occasional reversals in the portrayal of female sexuality, so that women are often stronger than the men give them credit for, and almost always find the main character's sense of 'chivalry' insulting. It's usually clear that the protagonist is not a role model, and we are not meant to sympathize with his views.

But there was a certain lasciviousness in the way comic portrayed women, and though the storytelling, characterization, and art tended to deserve four stars, I'd take the rating down when the lecherousness was played too straight.

The art really is lovely, though. It's vibrant, well-inked, and captures the world very well. The characters feel very human and dirty, and on the whole, the words and images compliment one another very well.

Between the strong, evocative art, the amoral (yet heroic) main character, and the deconstruction of the Western, the comic rather reminded me of my favorite title, Blueberry. However, Hombre is less varied; it doesn't depict the same range of emotions and moods, nor the complexity of plot, nor does the main character change over the course of the series.

But then, these are all things one would expect from a collection of short, serialized stories. Hombre knows what it is, and it delivers on it's premise, with great art, strong storytelling, and its saving grace: a sense of irony. All in all, it's exactly the sort of story you expect from a mature European anthology, and that's the reason we keep buying them.

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