Review by Frank Plowright
Life’s tough for young Rebecca. Despite her best efforts, her parents have separated, and as her mother now has a boyfriend it seems they’re not going to be reconciling any time soon. Still, the one bright spot is Ernest, the giant green germ that only she can see. Or so she thought. It turns out Ernest and her grandfather are old friends, which is the bombshell that ended Sam the Repulsive.
A weakness of earlier volumes has been telling an ongoing story via single page gags, with many punchlines not hitting the spot. Guillaume Bianco changes his approach with Grandpa Bug, now no longer reliant on single pages, but telling a continued story with funny moments in the manner of a comedy drama. It’s a massive improvement for a series that so far hasn’t sparked beyond Antonello Dalena’s expressive cartooning.
Rebecca’s smart and confrontational personality continues to charm. She can be fooled, but not as often as her relations assume, and because she wears her heart on her sleeve she’s capable of disarmingly awkward questions. When Ernest disappears she equates it to her father leaving the family home and her grandfather’s smoking shortening his life, but the new format allows for peaceful scenes of Rebecca being introduced to what the countryside has to offer. Sequences featuring Rebecca’s elder sister Coralie remain basic slapstick, and intrusive.
Dalena’s talent has made not so impressive material look far better over the first two books, and now what he’s being fed has improved, he grasps the opportunities. His countryside is beautiful, and there are some stunning pages where he takes a different approach. A page with Rebecca and Coralie at night is really effective, both drawn as silhouettes with only their eyes showing, but from that and their poses Dalena shows us everything necessary.
By the end we learn why Grandpa Bug has that name, and it’s suitably eccentric, but there’s been strangely little seen of Ernest, who talks of other commitments on his time. That’s something to be played out in the future. Grandpa Bug is utterly delightful, and The Land of Walking Stones is next.