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'Olympia' holds friendship and artwork to equal standards
Fantagraphics

Comic Books

‘Olympia’ holds friendship and artwork to equal standards

Using monumental action as a backdrop, Olympia pays deep reverence for art and friendship.

The life of devil-may-care, European art thieves isn’t nearly so far removed from your own. There are still boy troubles and girl troubles, there are still drunk dials and hangovers, and there are still best friends faking their own deaths to get out of the lifestyle. This latter detail may or may not apply to you (I know you’re still out there, Tom).

Olympia
I don’t know how many times I’ve flooded a historic institution on a Friday night.
Fantagraphics

The characters in Mulot, Ruppert, and Vives’ Olympia, out this week from Fantagraphics, are young, impulsive, and drawn to the same muddy party waters as any late-twenty-something. The difference for them, of course, is that all that directionless living is bracketed by laser-focused, meticulously planned heists.

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Set a year after the heart-breaking conclusion of its predecessor (The Grande Odalisque, out a year ago today), we come to find that mastermind (and emotional bedrock) Carole didn’t meet her untimely end hang-gliding from a window of the Louvre, as we suspected, and instead has stepped away from the life to give normal living a try.

If that sounds a bit involved, that’s because it is. Olympia might be considered the second half of the story begun in The Grande Odalisque, and not exactly its own story. While the heists and action all stand apart from the first book’s shenanigans, the true heart of the book—the story of Carole, Alex, and Sam, and their delightful, deeply loving friendship—is split in half by Carole’s absence.

What I’m saying is that you can’t read one without the other—which Fantagraphics clearly understands, as they’ve bundled the two for your convenience.

Olympia is the ‘one last heist’ classic, told through a lens of deep care and chemistry between our leads and a deep sense of respect to classic artwork and architecture. All the action—and there is a lot of action—is broken up by silent pages that linger either on a loving moment or an empty landscape. Both things, the book insists, hold equal value.

Olympia
Fantagraphics

It’s a touching stance, comparing the fleeting sweetness of friendship to the ageless, carefully maintained face of history, and it’s one that never feels off-balance or heavily wrought; like any great art, the impact is felt rather than documented.

Olympia
Fantagraphics

These moments of friendship are played out over ridiculously discordant backgrounds of violence and crime—being held at gunpoint or while suspended halfway up a skyscraper, trying out diamond drill bits. That action and any bloody gunplay run either as more of an undercurrent, average workday mundanity or it is played out silently as if the adrenaline of the moment is deafening.

Olympia
Fantagraphics

The artwork, a scratchy blend of three styles, works as a sort of emblematic shorthand, picking and choosing which elements of any panel to accentuate for focus and what to reduce to a simple outline; the creators understand how to make the reader appreciate an old masterpiece without recreating the artwork in full, and they know how to pin a personal moment while leaving tangential characters blank.

The book, at its center, cares deeply for its subjects, both human and historic, and this inspires us to spend all that much more care going over each panel, each line of banter, and each rough-sketched architectural marvel. For a book with so many silent moments and featureless faces, it feels loud with action and detail.

'Olympia' holds friendship and artwork to equal standards
‘Olympia’ holds friendship and artwork to equal standards
Olympia
Using monumental action as a backdrop, Olympia pays deep reverence for art and friendship.
Reader Rating1 Votes
9.1
Both touching and funny.
As meticulously planned as the heists themselves.
Might feel both cold and slow for some readers.
8.5
Great

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