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

‘The Bloody Streets of Paris’ by Jacques Tardi and Leo Malet.

Two recent comic books conjuring the modern European city

I recently read two fantastic comics 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. (Ed. This piece was originally published at on 13 February 2005.)

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-scène, as at heart it’s a good old-fashioned detective story — genuinely — with echoes of noir and Chandler, as well as some faintly surreal edges. Above all, though, the delight derives from Tardi conveying the sensations 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 perhaps 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, fantastical allusions. Visually, it’s full of wonderful detail: bubbling Bialetti on the stove, elegant lettering adorning cinemas and public buildings, heavy revolvers, cut-throat razors and more gloomy, smoky, rain-soaked streets. Recommended.

Ed. This was originally published at on 13 February 2005.

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