City of Sound is about cities, design, architecture, music, media, politics and more. Written by Dan Hill since 2001.

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.

Detail from The Bloody Streets of Paris
Detail from The Bloody Streets of Paris

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.

Detail from 5 is the Perfect Number
Detail from 5 is the Perfect Number
Detail from 5 is the Perfect Number

The Bloody Streets of Paris [Amazon UK|US]
5 is the Perfect Number [Amazon UK|US]


3 responses to “The Bloody Streets of Paris and 5 Is the Perfect Number

  1. marty Avatar

    Hey, these look great! I’ll definitely be picking up a copy of these – a quick dash to GOSH! comics. I just ordered the graphic novelisation of the the Paul Auster book City of Glass by Karasik and Mazzucchelli [Amazon UK|US], which I reckon would be up your street too.
    BTW, you’ve got your Amazon links mixed up for 5 is the perfect number [Sorted now – ta! – DH]


  2. Jimmy Avatar

    great post! thanks for the recommendations. I’ll be picking these up tomorrow! visually speaking, The Bloody Streets of Paris reminds me a lot of Herges’ Tintin. I can’t wait to flip through it.
    I really enjoy your site. keep up the good work!


  3. Dan Avatar

    Thanks Jimmy. Inspired by your comment, Marty, I scuttled off to Gosh! comics the next day. They’d sold out of ‘City of Glass’. As had Fopp, London Review Bookshop and Magma. It was getting like JR Hartley, I can tell you. Managed to snag the last copy in the shop at the Waterstones Piccadilly though … Looks great. Thanks for the tip. D.


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