After a long wait, primarily for fans of the series, Dargaud editions have finally released Farewell, the last part of the trilogy Grand Prize signed Marvano. The opportunity to rediscover the mix of fictional and real characters from the two previous sections, confronted with the turmoil of a world on the way to World War II. A context that weighs more and more heavily on the small world of motor racing. Even if death was part of the daily life of pilots in those distant years, and even a source of additional thrill for those who were ingenious to brave it at the wheel of a racing car, these are all other concerns that are not very pervasive. little by little the lives of our characters… and the story told by Marvano.
In fact, the “big” story definitely takes precedence over the “small” one in this volume 3. Motor racing, described with so much precision and passion in the first part, now serves only as a backdrop to a narrative arc mixing espionage and international politics, already introduced in the second opus. The race nevertheless remains the pretext for great boards: Marvano has lost none of his ability to express movement and speed. We almost come to regret that the pages devoted to it become more and more anecdotal, and simply illustrative, as the reader progresses.
The tragic death of Bernd Rosemeyer, the hero of volume 2, marks the end of this transition. Let us immediately reassure the readers: this is hardly a "spoiler", Marvano can hardly ignore the death of the German champion, killed on January 28, 1938 during an attempt to break the world of speed carried out by high winds on a simple portion of highway ... If his rival and nevertheless Rudi Caracciola - central character of the first part of the trilogy - is still very present, its gradual erasure is like a universe, that of motorsports, which seeks above all to shelter itself from the now ineluctable turmoil.
Even more so than in volume 2, it is Leslie Toliver who finds himself at the heart of the plot. This young British pilot, a fictional character, is reminiscent of Dick Seaman, who was very real to him. Like Seaman, Toliver is a promising racer who rides for Mercedes… But the comparison ends there, and Seaman is also sneakily quoted in the album. The storyline interest here is the increased artistic license that a fictional character allows. Toliver, torn between his nationality and that of his employer - and, incidentally, of his fiancée - in a context of growing tension between the United Kingdom and Germany, will also have to unravel two tortuous tangles, between his obscure origins and the main plot.
History on the move
But all these characters are now tossed about by the rhythm of the march to war. In the pages ofFarewell these well-known events follow one another: the Anschluss, the Munich agreements, the Kristallnacht, the partition of Czechoslovakia, the rise in tensions between Germany and Poland… And finally, this Belgrade Grand Prix contested in a surrealist atmosphere, on September 3, 1939, when the war has been raging in Poland for two days already and will soon turn into a world conflict. A confrontation that leaves the protagonists - and the reader - facing an uncertain outcome, even if a brief epilogue evokes the fate of some of the characters.
In this context, Marvano unfolds a very elaborate and very complex plot. There is no question of revealing too much here, but let the reader know that he will have to navigate a political game that is sometimes a little obscure between espionage and humanism, between the personal feelings of the protagonists and their desire to do something in the face of the growing persecutions of which The Jews of Germany are victims on the one hand, and the diplomatic and strategic necessities of the rulers of which they are, more or less consciously, the not always voluntary instruments. A thick plot, and maybe even a little too much, as everything goes very quickly as the end of the story nears - and this one will no doubt seem a little abrupt to many readers. Faced with the mass of information to be assimilated in so few pages, one may even wonder if Grand Prize It would not have been worth it to slow down a bit, even if it means becoming a tetralogy.
However, a second reading and a closer eye can reveal many details that went unnoticed at first instance. In reality, Marvano left little to chance. His vignettes are full of winks and allusions connected to the main plot, at the corner of an image, on a poster, or even a key character cleverly hidden in a crowd… A comic strip tells its story not only with its texts, but also with its images, and Marvano gives us here a demonstration of it sometimes difficult, but eloquent. Farewell is therefore not only the end point of Grand Prize, but also an incentive to reread the entire trilogy with all the attention that the Belgian artist's pencil deserves.
MARVANO, Grand Prize, volume 3, Farewell, Dargaud Benelux, 2012, 56 pages. ISBN 978-2-5050-1377-8.