The Belgica – The siren Song of Toni Brown | Review


Published on Nov 14, 2019


Ready for the adventure? Then bring coats, food and drinking water, and set off at a time of the unknown with captain De Gerlache! Do not, like the poor Jean Jansen, who finds himself, despite himself, on a ship to a destination thousands of miles from his home and his affections.

Catapulted directly in 1897, between History and fantasy, Brown Tones comes from the stories that are immersed in the space (with his masterpiece From up here the Earth is beautiful) to glide on the waters of the belgian and start again, at the time of the colder waters of the Earth at the time of the famous Belgian Expedition to the Antarctic.

In The Belgica – the song of The sirens, we find an unfortunate Jean Jansen, longshoreman, sin error on the Belgica, a former whaler, converted into a vessel for scientific exploration. Following an attempted theft on board, Jansen hits her head and wakes up in the open sea, travelling with the crew of captain De Gerlache.

"You can get off and go home with the first merchant direct in Belgium. You will not have any more to share a hold with sled dogs you've been up to today. Or... you Could be back on board, once loaded with provisions, and proceed with the shipment to Antarctica. There is no certainty of his return, but the glory is secure. Then, Jean? What will you decide?" (cit. the back of the cover)

The captain puts it in front of an aut aut, and Jean chooses to follow him at the time of the sixth continent. But the journey has just begun...

In the mini-series of two volumes published by Bao Publishing, The Belgica wants to tell you about comics on a journey that has put a strain on the survival instinct of a crew for more than a year, that is left from Ostend in 1897, arrived in Antarctica, stuck in ice for more than a year, returning in 1899. In this first of two volumes, Brown Tones are only setting the table (or, better, the boards) to tell the story of a journey against time and against themselves.

We meet Jean, the girlfriend Claire, the crew of the Norwegian, with which it is difficult to communicate, the captain De Gerlache, a just man, and harsh, and the financiers of the Royal Geographical Society of the Belgian and the cat, Nansen, the mascot of the trip.

Mixing Fantasy and History, Bruno tells us in the last sixteen pages of the anniversary edition of Bao Publishing how it came to the knowledge of the diary of the captain and how he decided to use it as the basis of a story of an adventure against themselves.

The minimalist graphics of Bruno, this time, finds perfect expression in the halftone: the author claimed to have used an ink bottle of the early years of the Twentieth century, to lower it still more in his historical period. The grey tones perfectly in keeping with the environment stormy, on which the boat is sailing, as well as manage to describe very well the dissatisfaction of the crew, and the progressive shortage of supplies.

The author takes advantage of access to the 156 pages of the volume, leaving to live widely in the cartoons all the characters that appear, including the two friends of Jean at the beginning of the volume the “push” to climb stealthily on board of the Belgica. The first pages were very hard to follow, but once Jean embarks, the narrative unwinds, and spins smooth as oil, or, better, as an old whaling boat on a flat sea, and no storms.

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