Recently read two fantastic comics - or graphic novels, if you will - both using the modern city as their backdrop - Igort's 5 Is the Perfect Number and The Bloody Streets of Paris by Jacques Tardi and Leo Malet.
As with a previous favourite, Berlin: City of Stones by Jason Lutes, the craft of pen and ink evokes the mid-twentieth century city perfectly. Igort's storyboards illustrate a Naples which is in the grip of both poverty and modernity, seemingly unsure which way to move; Tardi's is a fog-shrouded Lyon and a grimy Paris.
The Bloody Streets of Paris is adapted from Leo Malet's 1942 novel, 120 Rue de la Gare and illustrated by Jacques Tardi. His characters are rendered in loose cartoon lines, the backdrops are near-realist. The German occupation, and indeed the war, essentially just provides the mise-en-scene, as at heart it's a good old-fashioned detective story - genuinely - which now has echoes of noir and Chandler, as well as some faintly surreal edges. Best of all is the sense of those stately grey French cities: cold grey wet stone glistening in the streets, bustling café's glowing warm with Ricard-fuelled conversation, thick with cigarette smoke.
Igort's 5 is the Perfect Number is even better. The artwork is looser, spare, more imaginative. Truly cinematic framing contrasts with quite beautiful full-page pen and ink-work. The story is darker too, with richer characterisation and sudden, fantastic allusions. Visually, it's full of wonderful detail: bubbling Bialetti's on the stove; lovely lettering adorning cinemas and public buildings; heavy revolvers, cut-throat razors and more gloomy, smoky, rain-soaked streets. Recommended.