It’s funny; while I never try to judge a book by its cover, after one glance at the front of District 14 and immediately images of Blacksad came to mind. With the use of anthropomorphizing and the creators being European, it was an appropriate assumption to make and I had no problems diving into what appeared to be an old-timey graphic novel with a diverse looking cast of characters. As I discovered throughout the 300 pages of the first season, every character had their secrets, and looks definitely were deceiving for some.
While the narrative shifts from time to time, the main characters we follow are Michael Elizondo, an immigrant elephant with a mysterious past, and Hector McKeagh, a beaver who works for The Telegraph newspaper and happens to be the most determined journalist in all of District 14. There are plenty of juicy stories to hunt down too, for the city is overrun with crime and the majority of politicians are just plain dirty. Michael saves Hector’s life pretty early on, and Hector offers him a job as his personal bodyguard because it’s apparent that Michael knows how to throw a punch. Michael enjoys the life of a journalist, and slowly but surely evolves from saving Hector’s ass to doing some scooping and reporting of his own.
Jeff Smith describes it in the foreword as “It’s like a dream mash-up of Little Orphan Annie, Dick Tracy, noir and gangster films, as well as 10 cent comic books from the ‘40s…oh, and toss in Babar the Elephant for good measure (the authors are French, after all),” and I couldn’t agree more.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit? blended with Ross & Edwards’ Turf also came to mind, because the creators just go all out intermingling almost every genre together into one hearty and delicious comic book stew. With that being said however, it’s definitely not for all audiences (i.e. the younger ones).
Set in America during what feels like the Golden Age, immigrants of all species are flocking about looking for jobs, food, and gossip.
The Telegraph is the main paper reporting on all the events that take place in the city, and sometimes the stories they report on receive explosive backlash. That doesn’t deter Hector from reporting on them though; for once he has a bite he never lets go.
The supporting cast is interesting in their own rights, spanning from Michael’s main dame Vanita to the superhero known as Tigerman. When everyone is first introduced you make a mental note of if they are animal, alien, or human, but by the end of the graphic novel you stop paying attention because they all fit together seamlessly in execution.
This being the first season, there’s plenty of story and action and twists and turns, with some things being set-up to explore in future seasons. Yes, we discover where Michael came from and why he must drink a certain type of tea, and yes we learn why Hector hates all aliens, but there’s still several more unanswered questions beckoning to be asked and answered. Like a good cliffhanger at the end of a season finale, you let out a groan after reading the final page, desperately wanting the second season to be released pronto. Waiting’s a bitch, and with these European comics, it’s all the translating that throws a wrench into the works.
Cameron Hatheway is the host of Cammy’s Comic Corner and Arts & Entertainment Editor of the Sonoma State STAR. You can invite him to join Da Brudderhood of Da Friends of Da Upper Tower on Twitter @CamComicCorner.
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