Jacques and the Great Art Theft Review

By | Thursday, January 25, 2024 Leave a Comment
Jacques and the Great Art Theft is Chris Baldie's latest book that he Kickstartered back in October. He was pretty far ahead of the game in terms of production, so despite the campaign not ending and his getting the funds until November and his having to ship it overseas to get to me, I have it in my hands already! That's possibly the fastest Kickstarter fulfillment I've ever seen, and I say that as someone who's back nearly 300 projects so far.

The story is, not surprisingly, about Jacques and his attempt to steal some artwork from some museum in Paris. (Yes, probably that one, but it's never explictly said.) It's essentially a heist story, but Jacques is working by himself so the book is almost entirely silent. And unlike most heist stories, Jacques seems competent as a burglar but not especially masterful. He's not impossibly-proficient in one particular aspect of conducting a heist, but neither is he a bumbling idiot. He knows what he's doing, but he's still human. And throughout his prepping for the caper, as well as during, we're treated to a series of flashbacks that start to point to why he's doing what he's doing. I'll try not to give the ending away, but his goal with the theft is probably not one you'd guess until the very end.

I tend to find wordless comics deceptively clever. I mean, sure, the creator has to find a way to convey a story without resorting to a verbal language and there's a challenge in that not unlike an extremely extended game of charades. Imagine instead of trying to convey a book or movie title, you had to convey the entire story! But beyond that, the creators often include a great number of details that help to explain motives and backstory beyond the obvious that's presented as the main action. It sometimes seems as if there's another Chekov's gun in every panel!

But since the primary action is obvious, a reader (well, this reader at any rate) can skim past a panel because it doesn't take much more than a glance to understand a person running from one spot to another, for example. But the details in the pacing, the illustration, the coloring, and so on can add a great deal to the story and missing those can sometimes mean the difference between even understanding the story of not. Baldie here is very much crafting his tale in the same vein, and if you try to go through the book too quickly, you might find yourself almost immediately re-reading it to undertand some o the foreground actions. And forcing readers to slow down and savor the art in a comic is quite the opposite of a criticism! When I backed this Kickstarter, I included several of Baldie's other books as add-ons and, while I haven't had a chance to read them yet, I'm already very glad I did!

Jacques and the Great Art Theft is a fun story and, given it's wordless nature, one that I can recommend to literally anybody. It's available to order now through Baldie's Etsy shop for $13.31 US for the TPB and $26.61 US for the HC. (I suspect the odd prices are an automatic currency conversion, so the price might show up as a little higher or lower depending on what the exchange rates are when you happen to order.)
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