Review by Frank Plowright
It’s taken an extremely puzzling fourteen years for this stunning looking children’s series to be translated into English, but Humanoids have done it justice in launching their Kids line. They’ve combined the first two volumes at only slightly smaller than original French album size to better display the art, and the cover price is an absolute bargain.
Gregory’s not very happy at having to move to a new town and an apartment opposite the local gothic cathedral. Worse still, no sooner has he moved in than his Aunt Agatha comes to visit and his subsequent behaviour sees him grounded. However, that’s the making of him as he discovers a glowing device under the floorboards that points him towards the cathedral, and once there a whole new world of adventure opens up. All of sudden he’s interacting with the living stone gargoyles around the cathedral roof and being introduced to all sorts of other mythical creatures. Not only that, but the entire world appears to have bumped back four hundred years and only Gregory seems to realise.
J. Etienne designed Gregory and the Gargoyles and established the look of the series and cast over the opening story. He works in a method approximating an animated style with plenty of movement, and lush backgrounds that give a three dimensional depth to the cartooning. This impression is helped by Etienne not using traditional black outlines. He’s gloriously imaginative, and scenes of Gregory flying across the city on a dragon’s back or even cityscapes are breathtaking. As he’s excellent, the loss of Etienne might have been fatal, but Silvio Camboni picks up the style for the second episode. He’s more inclined to facial close-ups, so there are differences in approach, but he’s also very good indeed.
It’s the art that sells the series at first glance, but Denis-Pierre Filippi’s hilarious and fast-paced scripts ensure there’s no disappointment on reading the book. His plots supply jokes that parents will understand and appreciate while flying over the heads of the children reading the series, and much of the remainder is well constructed farce. Gregory is limited by having to obey adults, but constantly needs to be somewhere else as he desperately searches for a way back to the 21st century while helping out with a problem in the 17th. Along the way he befriends a gargoyle named Phidias, picks up some magical tricks of his own, and learns his instinct concerning his Aunt Agatha may have some foundation.
Filippi’s plot for the second story is Gregory learning in the 21st century that the cathedral was destroyed at the end of the 17th and reconstructed. How does he now go back in time to warn Phidias and his other friends? Titled ‘The Key to Time’ in French, it provides background information to events that was lacking in the title story, and deals charmingly with Gregory gradually adapting to what he can be among some high adventure and a lot of good gags. It’s not exactly a coming of age piece, as Gregory is too young for that, but his confidence and self-esteem are increasing.
There’s almost nothing to dislike about Gregory and the Gargoyles. The art is great, parents and children will laugh at the story, and it’ll leave both wanting to know what happens next. You’re going to want Book 2.