The cult graphic novel that completes an epic series

More than a decade in the making, this is the fifth instalment and delirious climax of Grandville, Bryan Talbot’s gritty steam-noir detective comic. Although set in the present day, Grandville the place has the feel of late 19th century Paris, where apart from a few humans (known as “doughfaces” and assumed to have little purpose beyond performing menial work) the world is populated by stylish and elegantly tailored animals.
Louche and chic it may be, but even in the animal kingdom some species or other is up to no good – lizards are exceptionally lacking in morality and compassion – and so the finest badger detective, Archibald LeBrock of Scotland Yard, is called upon once again to penetrate and thwart their cold-blooded schemes as the lizards turn their criminal gaze on London.

To complicate investigations, the DI is also on the run from the police, because his reptilian nemesis, Tiberius Koenig, has turned the coppers against him in an attempt to wipe out LeBrock and his entire support network. How can he possibly tunnel his way out of this one?

Drawn with delightful detail, each of the 160 pages reportedly took four 10-hour days to draw and ink, and that’s not counting the time it takes to write the excellent script or research the visual references, from William Morris wallpaper to the handkerchief colour code employed to communicate the precise nature of one’s homosexual tastes.

For those who are new to Grandville, each book is standalone and requires no previous familiarity with story lines, and the publisher has even thoughtfully added a “spoiler seal” – a black plastic wrapping over the last pages – to prevent accidental premature exposure to the finale’s big reveal.

Grandville’s many fans, who include the much-worshipped Philip Pullman and Ian Rankin, will be ecstatic at the sustained intensity of this last confrontation between badger good and lizard evil, but had better have their next “scientific romance thriller” lined up to fill the massive impending emotional vacuum. For those starting with book five – lucky you. You’ve still got four more to go.

Talbot likes to fill Grandville with references to other comics, art works and cultural phenomena such as…

Snowy
Tintin’s faithful dog makes a cameo in an earlier Grandville as a drug-addicted down-and-out, envisioning classic Tintin storylines in his opium dreams

Leo Baxendale
The creator of numerous legendary children’s comic characters, often notable for their overbites (Bash Street Kids, Minnie the Minx, Little Plum etc) was a friend and huge influence on Talbot. Here they get their own exhibition.

The Compare the Market Meerkats
Bogdan and Yakov Meerkat drop their cheerful “simples” schtick to plead their case with the lizard elite.

A Hitchcock-like cameo in his own work
Talbot appears in Force Majeure as a rather weedy and easily intimidated writer, the eponymous Bryan Turbot.

Grandville: Force Majeure, by Bryan Talbot. Jonathan Cape, £18.99