In the collection "They Made History" there is a man who could not be missed: Napoleon Bonaparte ! A figure so emblematic of the history of France that three volumes will be devoted to him while the other historical figures are content with just one ... In this first volume we follow the beginnings of the military career of the Corsican officer, before he 'he does not take power in France. From the headquarters of Toulon to the repression of 13 Vendémiaire, of the famous Italian countryside exotic egypt expedition, we are invited to let ourselves be carried away by the breath of the epic!
It was in 1793, in the harbor of Toulon, that the great military epic of Napoleon Bonaparte began. It was in Toulon that he won his first major victory, it was in Toulon that the political power, then represented by the Jacobins, took him under its wing. It was in Toulon that this young 24-year-old officer became a brigadier general. The following year Robespierre and his followers fell, but Bonaparte saved his head ... and saved the Convention during the royalist riots in Vendémiaire year IV! Here again the young general in a state of grace, he marries the former mistress of Director Barras who offers him as a wedding gift the command of the army of Italy: an army of barefoot whose only goal is to occupy part of the Austrian forces while the bulk of the operations must take place on the Rhine. Occupy the Austrians and plunder the territory to replenish the state coffers, such is Bonaparte's mission. But in the land of the Caesars, Bonaparte showed himself to be as brilliant a strategist as he was a politician: he overwhelmed the enemy, chained up victories, took the initiative to sign peace, to create new republics ... For the Directory this young man chef is an effective free spirit, but his success and popularity can make him dangerous. It is finally with a certain pleasure that they see the idol of the plebs leave the country in 1798. Toulon, again, always, but this time to take the sea and disembark in Alexandria, in the footsteps of the great Macedonian king. The Egyptian campaign and its Eastern dreams ... A military failure after Saint-Jean-d'Acre? Certainly, but the work of scientists on board, in the pure spirit of the Enlightenment and of the encyclopedists, is a victory for posterity. But already for Bonaparte new opportunities seem to be emerging ... in France.
This is not the first comic strip from the “They Made History” saga that we are presenting to you. On the same principle as for Charlemagne or Jaurès, this is a historical comic book supplemented by a file produced by a historian. However, and unlike other historical figures, Napoleon does not benefit from a tome, but from a triptych, which should make it possible to deal in more detail with his history, oh how founding for the History of France! This first volume evokes the life of Napoleon Bonaparte from his childhood (via flashbacks) until his return from Egypt.
The scenario of Noël Simsolo is relatively classic and includes some errors or approximations (the Hospitallers of the Order of Malta confused with Templars, Napoleon who announces to Kleber that he leaves him the command of the army of Egypt while he actually contented himself with leaving him a letter so that he would not learn the news until after his departure ...). Classic, we said, because in just 45 boards scrolls History centered essentially around the person of Napoleon, at the risk of losing sight of the role of the other actors during the two campaigns discussed. Finally, we focus on the Napoleonic epic, itself relatively simplified, more than on Napoleonic history. But this is the perennial problem when you want to deal with a relatively dense slice of life while respecting a relatively short format: you have to make choices, which makes it possible to gain in dynamism, but obliges to lose precision and artificialize the dialogues a little to convey all the essential information. In the end, if indeed the old people of the Old Town, the regulars of all the publications on the man with the cocked hat, will be able to find this relatively minimalist and classic comic, it will undoubtedly delight neophytes and all those who want to discover new things. epic way and in a few plates this tutelary figure of the History of France! And in this the Simsolo Christmas scenario certainly fulfills its purpose!
The drawings by Fabrizio Fiorentino, colored by Alessia Nocera, make all the beauty of the book. The characters are on the whole easily recognizable just by their faces and all the comics benefit from a certain epic breath breathed by this graphic mastery! Fabrizio Fiorentino's style contrasts with what we are used to seeing in historical comics. If the style wants to be realistic despite some approximations especially at the level of armament (recurring problem in the comics, although the documentation on the subject is not lacking) or the estimate of the numbers (at each battle the ranks are well cleared) ...), we especially notice this claw specific to the comic book designer. Yes, Fabrizio Fiorentino is a regular at Batman and other Supermans, so don't be surprised to find Bonaparte looking like a super hero when he harangues the army of Italy from a rocky hillock! But, as the authors put it in the making-of, they do not see comics as an exact historical representation, but above all as a playful means of escape: “ The comic strip is not a photograph or a scientific sketch intended to illustrate a doctoral thesis. It first intends to make people dream about one of the greatest epics of the 19th century ". At least the authors have the merit of clearly explaining their approach which can be fully justified: the dream is also a way of savoring history!
Finally, the book ends with a historical dossier and a making of. In the two-page making of, the authors review their sources and their working methods. The six-page file, richly illustrated (paintings, engravings, drawings, map, etc.), is for its part produced by Jean Tulard, a specialist unanimously recognized in Napoleon. This dossier returns in more detail to the chronological range evoked by the comics, in particular on the attitude of Bonaparte during the Revolution (with the fixed idea that his political future is in Corsica), on the Italian campaign and on the ambitions Napoleon's policies after the latter, postponed by the Egyptian campaign. This file is a real added value for this comic since the reader after having "dreamed" of the epic can sit down for a few minutes to confront a more scientific vision of the historical character. Thus, the comic book becomes a real object of popularization and initiation into History: the reader takes pleasure in discovering Napoleon in a epic and lively, then in a same burst of enthusiasm he looks at the historical file which brings him concrete and verified knowledge, and finally, if his curiosity is still not satisfied (which we hope!), he can deepen his research on his own, for example by following the short biography which redirects him to the works of Jean Tulard, Patrice Gueniffey or Henry Laurens!
Screenplay: Noël Simsolo
Historian: Jean Tulard
Design: Fabrizio Fiorentino
Colors: Alessia Nocera