Lucille has been out in France since 2006, I believe, even taking home an award from the Angouleme Comics Festival, and is now available in English thanks to the smart folks at Top Shelf. It works with this wide decompressed sweep and an almost meditative pace, which is a richly satisfying read, like some 3 hour epic movie that rewards loyalty to the reading experience. It’s about this beautiful romance that bubbles up out of all kinds of hardship. The story is mainly concerned with Lucille and Vladimir (nee Arthur) and their families of origin preparing them to be placed on precarious paths that inevitably cross. Along the way, Debeurme organically addresses themes of adolescent self-discovery, anger, resentment, social anxiety, death, self-image, sexuality, sicknesses like alcoholism and anorexia, and even additional psychosis like mild obsessive compulsive disorder. It might sound like a heady clinical tome from that description, but it flows so naturally and effortlessly, ducking and weaving through topics until you can see the two stars of the story on a crash course with each other.
The largest theme is probably about how the perceptions of society can begin to frame our actions in an unhealthy manner. The story culminates in a manner that rips your heart out, but still retains a shred of hopeful optimism, suggesting that the future is not doomed to repeat past cycles, but open to interpretation. There are frequent chapter breaks which seem to punctuate these events that shape personalities for years to come. I also think it’s important to note that there are no familiar panel borders, the story is largely told through free floating images and text loosely attributed to a speaker. The aesthetic is light and airy, almost as if the figures lack weight because they’re still struggling to become grounded in a reality and find their place in the world. One of the messages that kept coming back to me through examples in the story was that acts of kindness must be initiated to be reciprocated. It’s the simplest little thing in life, sounds obvious when you hear it, but pay attention to how things change when you do/don’t take this approach. We’re all going through life “chasing bees for the honey” it seems (you’ll understand when you read the book), and often times a successful life must be about challenging yourself and breaking out of either familiar routines or dangerous cycles of learned behavior. There’s probably no better example in comics of that oft-quoted adage “being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” Grade A.