Exquisite Corpse, a graphic novel by Pénélope Bagieu is being sold in America for the first time ever, and I couldn’t be more excited! Without giving too much away, a young woman named Zoe who is frustrated by her current life situation sees a man peeking through the curtains in his apartment. She decides to investigate. The man ends up being an author named Thomas Rocher, which doesn’t mean anything to Zoe. After a while though, she starts questioning his reclusive behavior and uncovers quite a secret.
This graphic novel was first released in France in 2010, and I don’t think anything was lost in the translation. I read Exquisite Corpse in one sitting. It’s a really funny, well paced graphic novel, and Bagieu’s art style is wonderful. My first impression was that it’s very Scott Pilgrim-y, but I think Bagieu makes her world a little more realistic. Her art also stands out to me in that she made very clear choices regarding color, and it works to influence the mood in each panel.
The characters in Exquisite Corpse are all very distinct and honest. Zoe definitely embodies the idea of “emerging adolescence,” or reaching your mid-twenties and still not having a clue what you want for the rest of your life, except that you want it to be awesome. At the beginning of the book, she’s working as a booth babe and all her coworkers are attending night classes or going to college along with the job. It’s so hard for people in their twenties to find meaningful work right now, so Zoe’s situation feels so real. Thomas Rocher reminds me of Richard Castle before he had Kate Beckett in his life. He’s all ego and art, and not very personable. My favorite character in the book is Rocher’s ex-wife and editor Agathe. She’s very good at taking care of herself, and radiates confidence.
Through The Mary Sue’s wonderful interview with Pénélope Bagieu, I learned that she was knighted for her incredible work in the arts, and is a bestselling author in France. I really hope that Exquisite Corpse becomes a hit in the U.S. for entirely selfish reasons: I want to see more of her books translated into English! I highly recommend this book. It’s so relevant and humorous and poignant.