Review: 'District 14, Season 2', by Pierre Gabus and Romuald Reutimann
I don’t know what’s going on, but wow!
Three years have passed since Season 1. As before, the main character is the mysterious Babar-esque elephant immigrant known as Michael Elizondo, with his recently made best friend, the reckless investigative reporter Hector McKeagh the beaver.
Season 2 continues the elaborate comic-art “crime noir” mystery set in an early 20th-century steampunk version of New York City populated with humans, anthropomorphic animals and flying-saucer aliens.
Translation by Anna Provitola, Los Angeles, Humanoids, Inc., January 2014, hardcover $39.95 (358 [+ 1] pages).
In Season 2 – the publisher calls District 14 “labyrinthine”, and that is a good word for the story – Michael’s dark secret evolves further, disfiguring and forcing him into seclusion, and turning him despairingly more brutal even as his romance with executive secretary Vanita Vein the poodle grows. It seems that comic-book good guys can’t always get beaten to a bloody pulp and recover unscathed a few panels later; Hector loses an eye permanently at the beginning of the volume.
More is learned about Hector’s dead love Belinda, a human, who wasn’t as saintly as he thought. The corrupt superhero Tigerman, another human, continues to fool the public, while in private he tries to force his scientist former mentor Thor Hoyerdinsk to increase his powers.
Two new characters appear; Bill Jarrow the human and Joe Horton the otter, who at first appear to be two elderly friends sinking into comic-relief senility. It gradually turns out that they have a dark secret from their past, and they are willing to risk death to come back for one last mission of revenge. Another new character is Walter Lipoda, the dapper rabbit hitman.
The Telegraph, Hector McKeogh’s muckraking newspaper, and its tough take-no-prisoners editor, Jock Anderwin the goose, are targeted by a bomb. The plight of District 14’s alien immigrants, the Braxzzl, is developed further; and the Braxzzl Tuxolpzzp Neephrozzpm (Mr. Tux) turns out to be a true friend to Michael and Hector. The slutty whore Rita (the underdressed giraffe with too much lipstick), the lover of horse Buster the friendly “protection” enforcer, has to be seen to be believed. And there is more. Much more!
What there is not is a final conclusion. This is giving away the book’s biggest spoiler, but at $50.00 (only $24.93 on Amazon.com), you deserve to know before you buy: Season 2 ends with another cliffhanger. There is more to come. And one of the biggest flaws of Season 2 is that there is no summary of the 300-page Season 1. You are expected to know all of the characters in District 14 and what they did before.
This is the translated American edition of Pierre Gabus and Romuald Reutimann’s Cité 14, Saison 2, from the publisher’s main Les Humanoïdes Associés imprint. This was originally published as a series of six 62- and 64-page comic-book format issues from October 2011 to June 2012, which were collected into a deluxe hardcover book with a sewn-in cloth bookmark in March 2013. The translator for this “season” is different, but the translation is still excellent.
One glaring difference has to be blamed on editorial insistence, though. In the French-language original, the cat-man Bigoodee and his sisters sprinkle their dialogue with lots of English, apparently to show that they are not natives but foreigners from America or Britain (or Canada). In this American edition where everything else is translated into English, their dialogue is heavily Frankified to imply that they are French immigrants. Commandant Bigoodee is Capitaine Bigoodee, and two samples of his dialogue are:
Are you sure you would not like me to be le chauffeur?
In that case, try to steer a droite, s’il vous plaît… (p. 122)
The story is excellent, if you like complex brutal, noir mystery novels featuring more funny-animal characters than humans or aliens. I am a big fan of this book. But I have read District 14, Season 1. If you have not, by all means start with Season 1 before you read Season 2. And don’t read either unless you are willing to go on to Season 3 when it is published, presumably next year.