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« Bandit! Thug! Thug! Chenapan! It's the pack of decent people - Who chases the child - He said I've had enough of the reformatory - And the guards with keys had broken his teeth - And then they left him lying on the cement "It was through poetry that Jacques Prévert told us about prison for children, today it is through comics that Galandon and Anlor revisit this theme. A strong subject, unexpected, but masterfully treated.
France, 1912, agricultural penal colony “Les Marronniers”.
The penal colony is a rehabilitation center, some say a penal colony, where young underage boys are placed, whom society can no longer accept within it. Bad kids, thieves, fighters, it's a bunch of young outcasts, fools and violent beings, forever lost, who are gathered in this prison. At least that's how those who look after them see them, the manager of the establishment of course, but also the few guards. It is also the image of the surrounding peasants. But at the end of the day he doesn't care much about those dirty kids, except of course when one of them tries to escape. Now it's a bargain, you just have to get your hands on it to pocket a good bounty. As a direct consequence, the escape is only a mirage for the rebels of the Chestnut trees.
In this young and male prison world, violence and intimidation are the rule, physical and even sexual abuse common. The only currency that circulates is made up of erotic drawings. The days go on doing farm work and obeying the "big brother", a comrade in charge of making the link between the group and the management.
In this unhealthy world is Miguel, a child of the assistance who had been hired as a butcher's boy in a family that mistreated his colleagues. It was to treat one of them that he stole from the cash register, it was through an unfortunate combination of circumstances that he injured the "mother" of his foster family. And that's why he stagnates at Les Marronniers. He befriends the young and shy Adrien, who was sexually abused by the new "big brother". The third thief has an atypical profile, in the midst of an illiterate majority Jean is what you might call a young man of letters. Lucid about the difficulty of escaping, aware that their situation goes beyond legality, he seeks to warn a journalist to investigate this prison for children. He will succeed, forging at the same time a close relationship with the director's young daughter ... A director who is quick to understand the trap set for him and who is cunning enough to transform the camp in a few days to only show enough to write a glowing article.
The theme of children's penitentiaries from the beginning of the 20th century is original. This is generally not what we primarily look for in a comic book department and it is true that we start with a little negative, purely subjective, prior knowledge. Well, it is clear that Galandon's scenario knows how to keep us going and fully immerse us in this environment which was unfamiliar to us! So this is a perfect achievement for the screenwriter, with all the more merit that he did not leave with an audience won in advance! From the first boards, the reader is immersed in the mood of Prévert's poem "Child Hunting", which precisely evoked the mutiny in the Belle-Ile-en-Mer penal colony. It was therefore an excellent surprise.
On the drawing side, we find an attention to detail conducive to immersion, without achieving methodical realism. Indeed the features are often sharp, lively, like these thin and violent children. More generally, the features lose in realism what they gain in expressiveness and we can read the souls of the characters on the faces: gentleness, simplicity, brutality, sadism ... That's the art of the talented Anlor. She signs her first comic there but everything thinks that it will not be her last, and that's all the harm we wish her!
Realism is found on the other hand in the dialogues, at least as far as we can judge and what we can imagine of an environment of imprisoned adolescents: the words are crude, the expressions pictorial but little punished ... A vocabulary timeless of prisons, barracks and disadvantaged environments.
"The innocent guilty" is therefore an excellent surprise, and once again we must recognize that the Wide Angle Editions offer us "Comics like in the cinema", even with a subject that could have put off some! It is pleasant to be guided by the talent of Galandon and Anlor to discover this prison universe from the beginning of the last century. A theme of the criminalization of young delinquency which, in the end, is still very topical ...
Designs & colors: Anlor
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