I Jump Aboard…

3 11 2007

… translating Archaia Studios Press’ series The Killer by Jacamon (art!) and Matz (words!), with issue #5,

Archaia’s The Killer, Issue #5

released back to back two weeks ago with issue #6

Archaia’s The Killer, Issue #6: Part II of “The Debt”

to grateful exclamation. The start of this new arc, “The Debt”, is a good place for new readers to jump on. Reviews have been ecstatic, especially over the NY scenes in #6, though not a single critic has neglected to bewail Archaia’s lateness in delivering what seems their best-loved translated title. Nor am I privy to what editorial congestion held up timely publication–but it wasn’t this translator! Writer Matz provided Archaia with his own translations of his work, which they asked me to brush up. Working on this series has been a crash course in concise dialogue. The other two Archaia series I work on, Okko and The Secret History, the former with its flourishes of formal diction, and the latter with its historical freight, both allow more leeway in narration than the clipped tone of The Killer. The rule of thumb that English is 15% more concise than French does not apply to slang (and in my experience applies more to the formal French of nonfiction and newspapers than to the literary idiolects authors invent to express largely personal concepts). My rule of thumb when trying to fit the Killer’s thoughts and especially dialogue into boxes and balloons, in moreover a font larger than the other two books’, was cut, cut, and cut. Perhaps the only secret to hard-boiled terseness is the curt, bitten-off exchange.

The Killer has also made the big news of being picked up for the movies, with David Fincher signed to direct and the possibility of Brad Pitt in the role after early Tobey Maguire interest fizzled. Having read the entire series, I confess to having no idea where the “highly competent cop hot on his tail” in the screenplay comes from—but things change from page to screen and panel to frame. Archaia has concomitantly posted a nifty animated trailer.

The Secret History #3: The Grail of Montsegur The Secret History #4: The Keys of St. Peter

The Secret History #3 and #4 have also been released back to back, and this is, personally, a more rewarding series to work on, a tale, woven from richer threads, of a more complex fabric–a massive tapestry taking on all of Western history. In these issues readers can look forward to a grail quest, the siege of Rome, a heist of the Papal jewels and, almost as a side note, the curiously moving tale of a knight, Sir Tristan des Barres, who ages swiftly in the service of immortals–a theme I find as poignant here as in Doctor Who’s troubled relationships between his virtually unaging self and the human beings he loves.

I previously posted about Secret History #3, while plugging Secret History #2 earlier this year, and now with the whole first series under my belt I can stand back and admire the shadow-panorama author Pecau has crafted for the underside of civilization, carefully situating his plots in historical contexts with cameos from real live dead people. The first series takes us up through the end of World War I, via the many medieval and Renaissance religious wars, Newton, and Napoleon, footnoted just enough for curious readers to be able to find out more about the names, places, and notions dropped. As though to mimic a history of epistemology, “magic” in the series gradually gives way to a concept of randomness, or luck and chance, manipulated by arcane means–an almost scientific idea of harnessed chaos. Thanks to Greg Burgas at Comic Book Resources, who pens a thoughtful appreciation of this overlooked series.

December will see the release of the Okko hardcover collecting issues 1-4, the entire “Cycle of Water” storyline. I’ve been lucky enough to fondle advance copies, and that is one handsome book, with slick pages and a goodly heft in the hand, plus a jacket painting to stir dreams of other worlds. Okko the series is being held up not from any fault of Archaia’s, but because the French, as usual, are behind in putting out their lavish hardcovers. So every fan, French and American alike, must wait. I’ve delivered issues #5 and #6 already, but there’s no point in putting these on American spinner racks when the French pub date for issues #7 and #8 hasn’t yet been announced. I think it’s a canny editorial decision to wait: better to launch the series’ second arc, “The Cycle of Earth”, afresh than let the energy of the cliffhanger that ends #6 dissipate into the tepidness of dulled expectations or forgotten anticipation. There is enough entropy in the universe.

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