William and the Lost Spirit (2013). Story By: Gwen de Bonneval. Art By: Matthieu Bonhomme.
Art and story come together in perfect symmetry in William and the Lost Spirit. This is why I read comics. Bonneval’s script moves with assured grace and Bonhomme’s art is perfect. Bonhomme stands somewhere between late-career Mazzucchelli and Herge.
The colors in the book are credited to a person known only as ‘Walter.’ His simple, muted palette astounded me, page after page. His colors brought life to the book in the manner of Matthew Hollingsworth and Dave Stewart but with even more subtlety, more simplicity. Page 28 is the perfect example. The characters are bedding down with the pigs in a hayloft and the background – near the fire – is a soft orange, while the foreground – in the shadows of the ceiling – is cold blue. Two colors, two moods, so perfect.
William and the Lost Spirit is a grand fantasy adventure. Similar in spirit to The Chronicles of Narnia and The Sword in the Stone, and just so charming. It begins with two parents panicked because their daughter is missing, but soon, we find out that the father isn’t the father and, from the children’s’ point of view – as we learn when we meet the son – an unwelcome interloper. The son and the daughter, William and Helise respectively, are obsessed with their late father. Everyone but William and Helise thinks he’s dead. They are convinced that their father’s “delving into the secrets of nature” has somehow kept him alive – at the very least as a lingering spirit.
William convinces his mother that Helise has gone looking for his father’s spirit. When his mother is called away, William loots his father’s workshop and goes looking for his sister, knowing that his search for her will lead him to his father, as well.
William wanders the woods and sneaks through villages pillaged by roving gangs of soldiers. While in one such village, William meets Brabant, who gains the boy’s trust by saving him from the marauding soldiers. Brabant calls himself a knight, but acts more like a mercenary, and death be to anyone who questions his honor. Brabant is a violent man, but is a product of a violent world. His fight scenes are amazing. Perfectly choreographed and perfectly clear. They are some of the best combat scenes I’ve ever seen in a comic book. All of the action scenes are like that. Kinetic and exciting but with total clarity.
William and Brabant visit William’s aunt. After adding a Troubadour – who flirts endlessly with William’s aunt, much to Brabant’s chagrin – and a goat to their party, they travel across the land on a colorful series of misadventures. On page after lovely page, Bonneval and Bonhomme show you all the wonders of the world and all of the wonders of their commingled imaginations.
They encounter strange and horrible beasts, a beautiful princess, and an off-kilter king. And in the end, the mysteries are revealed – though, in part, using a device that I find tiresome. You’ll see what I mean when you read the book, as I strongly suggest you do.
William and the Lost Spirit has only one additional flaw. One that I saw coming before I got to the end of the book. Have you ever read something that left you panicking when you realized how many pages were left? It often means an ambiguous or hurried ending. William and the Lost Spirit suffers from the latter. I kept thinking that if they’d just shortened the middle a little bit, possibly cutting down one of the chase scenes to make room for an ending with a little more room to breathe, there’d be little more impact.
But maybe that was just me not wanting the story to end.
William and the Lost Spirit has a 9 out of 10 chance of waking Cthulhu from his eternal slumber. I almost gave it a 10, but the ending felt too rushed.