Tuesday, April 3, 2012

De:Tales by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon

Twins Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon are an anomaly within the comics world. A pair of creators coveted equally by mainstream and indie fans alike, this has given them a freedom to collaborate with creators they seem to enjoy working with (Matt Fraction on Casanova, Mike Mignola on Hellboy,) and also the ability to tell the stories they want without editorial constraint (Daytripper.) These are things that are rarely attained by creators working for the big publishers in the industry and it has led to Ba and Moon gaining a loyal fan base willing to purchase anything the twins put out. Eager to capitalise on this, Dark Horse have re-released the twins’ second published American work, (the first being Ursula for AiT/Planetlar,) De:Tales. Why are Ba and Moon rated so highly within the comics community? Find out after the jump.
Written, Pencilled and Inked by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon

Does where you come from define who you are? How important is love, or friendship, or companionship? These are universal questions that we can all relate to and is the main connective tissue that binds De:Tales, Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon’s collection of short stories about life in Brazil. Originally published by Dark Horse in 2006 in soft cover, the publisher has gone back to the well, quite possibly due to the pair’s massive increase in popularity and exposure, and has re-released De:Tales in a more deserving hard cover format. Within the cover there are about a dozen short stories of varying length. Some are semi-autobiographical, some fiction, (although even the out and out fictional tales contain elements that this author can only assume have happened to the twins in real life,) yet all the stories within the book are ones that anyone can relate to.

Love is the main theme within the book, be it the love of a brother and the protection that having a sibling affords you, or the loss of a friend or the importance of having friends, or the feeling you get from meeting your one true love for the first time. The twins have no problem wearing their hearts on theirs sleeves, showing the men (sometimes themselves, sometimes analogues of themselves) to be emotionally incomplete and lost in a world that threatens to absorb them. The women involved are totems of strength and intelligence, almost unattainable goddesses exposing the men’s inadequacies and pointing them onto the right path. There is no doubt that Ba and Moon feel that life and its experiences within are something to be shared and treasured with the ones you love.

There is also an unspoken sadness that permeates on the pages, particularly within the autobiographical of the portions of the book. One such story sees the twins and a few other unnamed friends cast a spell to bring back an old friend on his birthday who died a couple of years previously. A reunion party happens and the friend gets to see old buddies and his ex for one night only. The happiness of the reunion is short lived as everyone knows he will disappear the following day, yet even in sadness there is optimism as the friend bestows knowledge on the people he affected most, recommending them to live life to the fullest. Even the comment that Death is “cold and wet, like London,” cannot stop this Londoner feeling the full range of emotions that the story contains. There are moments where, like Daytripper, you would be heartless not to feel your stomach tying in knots from the sadness, or happiness for that matter, contained within. As with all of Ba and Moon’s work, story and structure play second fiddle to the emotions that they want you to feel from what they create and their uncanny ability to execute this is something to be praised.

The writing and art duties are shared between the twins on every level. Some stories are written by Moon and drawn by Ba, some the other way around, some are written and drawn by both. Part of the fun of De:Tales is trying to work out which twin has done what. There is even a story told twice, a tale of a man on a night out having a toilet break and arguing with himself whether or not he should talk to a girl, with each brother interpreting the script how they see fit. The differences are not major, yet show that the twins do indeed have their own approaches to storytelling, and give you a chance to decide which one of the pair is your favourite. The pair’s talent for figure work and facial expressions make dialogue almost redundant at points and both Ba and Moon are quick to recognise this and let the art tell the story when needed.

As with Ba and Moon’s other comic work, the art is of the highest calibre. The Brazil that they paint is a slightly skewed one, foregoing the social troubles that the nation has faced in the past. But this book isn’t about politics or country wide issues, but one of youth, love and companionship, and the brothers are step up to the task admirably. Their women are beautiful, with long hair and big eyes; their men handsome, slim with chiselled jaws. There are definitely similarities between the two, obvious as they are twins, yet there are subtle differences. Ba’s style is slightly more angular and pays a certain debt to Mike Mignola, whereas Moon’s line is less intense and more rounded. Both are masters at interpreting architecture and have mastered drawing a lively crowd scene, something that too many comic artists do not have the ability to execute.

Verdict – Must Buy

If you’ve been put off by the idea that this may be a slice of life book, don’t be. Within the covers are tales of wonder, loss, regret, happiness and above all friendship; be it the companionship of a brother, saluting fallen comrades or discovering your first love. Ba and Moon are a pair of old souls in young bodies and both have a confidence with a pencil and brush that would take most artists lifetimes to achieve, all with the lack of cynicism that being young provides. The world is a dark enough place as it is, we need more entertainment like this to show us how to savour the bright spots.

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