Review by Frank Plowright
Cedric is a phenomenal success in latter-day Franco-Belgian comics, perpetuating the standards of earlier all-ages greats, but with a modern outlook. The English language touchstones are easy. He has the charm, curiosity and propensity for getting into accidental trouble of Dennis the Menace (American version), but also the downright naughty, troublemaking streak of Dennis the Menace (British version). Of course, there’s also a European tradition of such characters, with René Goscinny’s Little Nicholas much loved, but Cedric precedes the more iconoclastic Titeuf. His two to five page escapades have been in pretty well every issue of legendary French childrens’ comic Spirou since 1989.
Cinebook have begun their reprints with the third French album from 1990, by which time quality has presumably supplanted the settling in period. High Risk Class is a laugh riot, with Raoul Cauvin’s scripts consistently inventive and running smoothly towards good finishes in which Cedric pays the price for his troublemaking. Cauvin must have been a naughty boy himself. The cartooning by Laudec (Tony de Luca) is wonderfully expressive, communicating a great sense of movement and mischief, and in terms of Cedric’s popularity its strength is the utter charm with which the personalities are presented. Laudec captures the moods of childhood perfectly.
This book is significant for the introduction, in the opening strip, of Chen, seen on the cover. She’s a Chinese girl introduced to Cedric’s primary school class, and given the often more casual French attitude to what’s perceived as racism in the UK there are immediate concerns as the script drops into innocent comments about skin colour and mispronunciations. However, Cauvin turns the strip around admirably, working a good reversal joke from the topic. Cedric rapidly falls for Chen, and Cauvin uses a later, somewhat awkward strip to explain the horrors some migrants experience before reaching a different country. The mispronunciations continue, however, and will be polarising. They’ll be offensive to some people and realistic to others, as they’re not presented in any humorous capacity.
As in all ongoing features, the cast expands as characters are introduced for a single joke, and Cauvin then comes up with other material for them. Cedric’s grandfather is very good, prone to a nap, but otherwise alert if not entirely understanding the modern world, and quite the subversive presence in places. Chen supplants attractive teacher Miss Nelly in Cedric’s affections, and his best buddy Christian is there to be manipulated as a partner in crime. They all combine for strips that prompt a grin at the very least and can be laugh out loud funny.
Cinebook follow-up with Dad’s Got Class.