On the Odd Hours

Writer / Artist
On the Odd Hours
On the Odd Hours graphic novel review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: NBM Comics Lit - 978-1-56163-577-1
  • Release date: 2010
  • UPC: 9781561635771
  • Contains adult content?: yes
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: no

On the Odd Hours is the third translated volume of a patently fascinating collaboration between Paris’ Louvre, one of the greatest museums in the world and the, until so recently, scurrilous world of comics. The brief is that a different comic creator is commissioned every year to produce a graphic novel that somehow promotes the Louvre’s amazing collection. There are no further guidelines, and Eric Liberge follows Nicolas de Crecy’s Glacial Period, and Marc-Antoine Mathieu’s Museum Vaults, both also translated by NBM.

Despite being produced in close collaboration with the forward-looking authorities of the Louvre, this is no gosh-wow, Night-at-the-Museum, thinly-concealed catalogue of contents from a stuffy edifice of public culture. Rather, here is a startling, beautiful, gloriously compelling adult horror thriller cleverly incorporating the history, geography, icons and artefacts of the Louvre into the plot and making the historic building and its contents a vital character in the supernatural drama.

Amongst the history and information pieces at the back of the book is an article on the services for the deaf such as signed tours, and the hearing-impaired guides and lecturers who are part of the staff. This is done to complement the tale of Bastien, an angry young deaf man who turns up at the museum to begin an internship, but somehow becomes a night guard. He has special responsibilities for the odd hours of the clock: those moments when the 200 year old museum slips the shackles of reality and the exhibits escape their bounds, coming to terrifying, chaotic life.

Liberge’s art is stunning in this extremely adult tome, and the creeping obsessions of Bastien as he struggles to keep his daylight life alive whilst striving to resolve the mystery of the exhibits is both poignant and enthralling.

Why was he selected for the position? Why are the animated beauties and horrors of the museum so much more enticing that his increasingly strident and difficult girlfriend? Most importantly, how can animated artworks be so much more communicative than the flesh and blood inhabitants of his “normal” life?

On the Odd Hours is utterly engrossing and darkly lovely.