In an old, Gothic-looking building wedged in between the high-rises of a template Western city, La Maison Tuvache has been a trustworthy supplier of all your suicide needs. For generations the House of Suicides has been the place to turn to if you are looking for anything from poisoned apples to strychnine to quality nooses and seppuku swords.
The current proprietor of the Maison, Mr. Mishima (indeed) Tuvache, doesn’t like the way things are going. His first two children, Vincent and Marilyn, are appropriately despaired and morose, but his third, Alan (named after Alan Turing, and conceived when Mr. and Mrs. Tuvache were testing a pierced condom for people who want to die of an STD) is something else.
He’s dressed in colourful clothes, he likes to sing happy songs and is generally very generous with his love and affection, giving hugs and kisses all around. Even when Mr. Tuvache sends him away to the Suicide Bombers College, he’s kicked out for lack of wanting to die. And what’s even worse, his infectious good mood seems to have an effect on his mother and siblings as well. It’s enough for Mr. Tuvache to really start to doubt the sanity of the world…
Le Magasin Des Suicides is a graphic novel by writer Olivier Ka and artist Domitille Collardey, based on the novel by Jean Teulé that earlier this year was the basis for the animated feature by Patrice Lecompte by the same name. But whereas Lecompte opts for an over-the-top visualisation of Teulé’s absurdist story, with swooping camera moves and highly caricaturised characters. Ka and Collardey keep their adaptation fairly low-key.
The characters in this book look like real people, and the buildings and streets are hardly too exaggerated as a mirror of reality. It’s as if they don’t want their visualisation to distract the reader from the absurdities of the story, and of the down-the-rabbit-hole aspect of the conversations, where all conventional morals are turned upside down, a birthday is a reason to celebrate only because you have one fewer year to live, and children aren’t supposed to smile and bounce around.
Collardey alternates fairly traditional pages with rather spectacular cut-aways of the Maison, with the action unfolding within one single panel, and the colouring (by Collardey and Max de Radiguès) is very expressive, with Alan’s bright colours slowly gaining on the drab subdued tones of his surroundings. But beyond that, no special trickery is used to convey the story, which makes the twist at the end all the more surprising and, frankly, shocking.
Le Magasin Des Suicides is a wonderful, lush graphic novel that makes you smile, think, and actually is able to move you to tears. If this one is not picked up by a major English-language publisher, it would be a damn shame.
Le Magasin Des Suicides by Olivier Ka and Domitille Collardey (based on the novel by Jean Teulé) is published by Delcourt (ISBN 978-2-7560-2000-6).