Review by Ian Keogh
Back in the days when few graphic novels were published at all, let alone European translations other than Asterix and Tintin, NBM issued a fantasy series hugely popular in France. The twist was that it didn’t conform to the ever more outrageous SF fantasies prompted by Metal Hurlant’s arrival in 1975, but an altogether more conventional form of fantasy.
The well endowed Roxanna is seen on the opening page chatting to her small blue mammal companion, announcing that her mother has finally given her permission to begin the Quest for the Time Bird. It’ll occupy four volumes. Spells trapping an ancient threat in a conch shell are about to expire, and Queen Mara needs the Time Bird to stop time, which will enable her to cast the additional spells to ensure Ramor never menaces the world anew.
While it’s likely any enthusiastic fantasy reader will be able to predict much of the plot, there is an immediate selling point in the art of then newcomer Régis Loisel, although it’s not presented at its best by muddy printing. Loisel conjures up rich and imaginative landscapes and gnarled, eccentric people, and to his credit doesn’t sexualise Roxanna greatly, despite her visual similarity to 1970s warrior Red Sonja. Other artists of the time would have no such restraint considering the sniggering about large breasts in Serge Le Tendre’s script.
What isn’t apparent, and won’t be until the final Roxanna graphic novel is how clever one aspect is, Le Tendre leading readers to assume one thing, when actually the reality is entirely different. Otherwise, Le Tendre’s plot may not sparkle with originality overall, but it’s told with enough good humour to paper over some cracks as Roxanna accompanies the now aged warrior Bragon to the dangerous guardians of the conch.
Roxanna’s quest continues in The Temple of Oblivion, but all things considered, tempted readers are better off finding Titan’s collection of the entire saga. The Quest for the Time Bird, restores Roxanna’s original French name of Pelisse, the translation is improved, and the art is far more clearly reproduced.