Thursday, December 23, 2010
By Bill Volk
A while ago my friend (and comicker) Jen Vaughn sent me a huge box of minicomics. This would be why you've seen a lot more American comics on the site recently.
However, this is one that I don't think she should have sent me, as inside there's a stamp that says "Property of CCS", which is where my friend works. Jen! You have been stealing from the office (library). Bad girl! : )
This comic opens with several full-page images drawn in a stark black and white style. They tell how England was invaded by the Normans in 1066, and that several years later the king sent out people to talk to every landowner and discover exactly what they owned for taxation purposes (you can read more about it here).
Instead of illustrating the entire Domesday book (or the story of it) in that style, Volk then switches to a considerably more cartoony way of drawing characters, and tells a tale of one young man who is sent off to count the animals.
Interestingly the main character doesn't speak English (though to be honest, I can't understand the "English" spoken by some of the characters either), and doesn't even consider himself English (he's a French speaking Norman). As readers we're thrust into considering the English as the "other" who we cannot understand, and don't even really want to as they are strange and dangerous. An interesting inversion of usual English-language work.
Volk's comic take the route of only showing us two posible interactions between the census taker and the landowners: the best posible, and if not the worst posible, than one rather close to it. From these we can make assumptions about what the job was like overall, and how shitty and horrible it generally must have been to do it. Yeah, you might get bribes, but you might also end up dead.
Volk's cartoony style makes the whole thing seem considerably more light hearted than the actual history was. People died because of this thing! And yet, I can't really think that anything bad would happen to the main character even when the comic ends and we have no idea what will happen to him next.
(I sorta feel there should be more to this review... Oh well.)