Friday, November 22, 2019



[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

MANGAKA: Taiyo Matsumoto (with Saho Tono)
LETTERS: Deron Bennett
EDITOR: Mike Montessa
ISBN: 978-1-9747-0708-9; hardcover (September 2019)
432pp, B&W with some color, $29.99 US, $39.99 CAN, £20.00 UK

Located in Paris, the Louvre is the world's largest art museum (and perhaps it most famous).  Did you know, dear reader, that the Louvre also publishes comics?  Yes, the most famous art museum in the world has been commissioning various legendary comic artists to write their own original stories inspired by the Louvre and its collection for the last decade.  These comics are published via a joint venture between the Louvre and French publisher, Futuropolis.

Most of these artists are French, but increasingly the Louvre has been working with Japanese manga artists (mangaka).  One of those mangaka is Taiyo Matsumoto, who is best known for his manga, Tekkonkinkreet.  Matsumoto won one of American comics' most prestigious honors, an Eisner Award (“Best U.S. Edition of International Material,” 2008), for Tekkonkinkreet: Black and White, VIZ Media's English-language edition of Tekkonkinkreet.

Matsumoto's contribution to Louvre comics is Les Chats du Louvre (Cats of the Louvre), which Futuropolis published in two books, one in February 2017 and the second in August 2018.  VIZ Media recently published an English-language edition of both volumes of Les Chats du Louvre in a single, hardcover, omnibus book under the title, Cats of the Louvre.

Cats of the Louvre, Part One (Chapters 1 to 10) and Part Two (Chapters 11 to 17 to Final Chapter) focuses on a group of human characters that works at the Louvre and a small family of cats that lives in the museum's attic.  Cécile Gagnier, a recent hire, is a tour guide.  Through Marcel, an elderly nightwatchman, Cécile learns that the paintings speak.  Although Cécile and, Marcel's new assistant, Patrick Nasri, initially doubt the old nightwatchman stories, they gradually become believers, especially Cécile.

For the world-renowned Louvre museum contains more than just the most famous works of art in history.  At night, within the Louvre's darkened galleries, an unseen and surreal world comes alive.  It is a world witnessed only by the cats that live in the attic, until now…  The cats, who change appearance at night into anthropomorphic forms, will end up sharing that magic with the humans.  Long ago, Marcel's sister, Arrieta, disappeared in the Louvre when the two were children.  Now, Cécile and a precocious white kitten named “Snowbébé” will solve a mystery that unites the world of the humans that work at the Louvre, the world of the cats, and the magical world a mysterious painting.

It is difficult to describe Cats of the Louvre.  It is surreal and partly exists in the real world and in the world of magical realism; then, some of it is entirely magical and fantastical.

Taiyo Matsumoto fashions an interesting and endearing group of human characters.  Marcel is mysterious, but he is the kind of old man who has a lot to say.  I found that I could not get enough of him.  Patrick Nasri is a nice spin on the skeptical youth type.  Cécile Gagnier is our doorway into the entire world of the museum and its employees and the world of the family of cats in the attic.  Her curiosity and determination and her willingness to listen and to believe make her an excellent focus and doorway into the narrative for readers.

The cats are something else entirely.  Even as cats, they seem slightly supernatural, so when they become human-like at night, everything about them turns magical and exciting.  I could follow their lives and adventures forever.  Most of the cat characters are quite interesting, but the star is, of course, Snowbébé.  This little white cat is the one who crosses the barriers, visiting the galleries during the day when the tourists and museum visitors can plainly see him.  It is his adventure into the mystery painting that creates the most magical and surreal sections of Cats of the Louvre.

Matsumoto's art is as lyrical, as poetic, and as personal as his story.  His odd, eccentric drawing style is perfect for comics; in fact, Cats of the Louvre looks like Eurocomics, American comics, and manga.  The art and story are hypnotic and alluring.  I found myself being pulled into the comic by the irresistible force of Matsumoto's graphical storytelling.

Michael Arias, the noted visual effects artist who directed the anime adaptation of Tekkonkinkreet, provides the translation and English adaptation for VIZ Media's edition of Cats of the Louvre.  Arias captures the magic and brilliance of Matsumoto's tale of the Louvre and its cats, its humans, and its charmed works of art.  Letter Deron Bennett turns in the best work of his career, providing the English lettering and sound effects and also, with his lettering, matching the beautiful spirit of Matsumoto's art.

I highly recommend Cats of the Louvre.  No admirer of the medium of comics can ignore Matsumoto's stunning manga.

10 out of 10

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

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