After Renaissance, published at the end of 2010, Marvano continues the series Grand Prize with volume 2, Rosemeyer!, released on May 6. The Belgian author continues his account of the epic "Silver Arrows", the Mercedes and Auto-Union teams and their drivers, in the world of car racing in the interwar period. If volume 1 stopped at the end of 1935, this second opus continues the narration until mid-37. A period marked both by the growing success of the Germans on the track and by the growing appetite of the Nazi regime on the international stage.
The omnipresence of the "big" history
As its title suggests, volume 2 of Grand Prize begins with Auto-Union star driver Bernd Rosemeyer. Eccentric and boastful, the man puts everyone in agreement with his steering wheel. A difficult thing to say the least in comics, Marvano nevertheless succeeded in restoring the German pilot's ability to master his Auto-Union Type C, a monster of nearly 500 horsepower - a power that Formula 1 would not find until the 1970s. Everything is dazzling with Rosemeyer, from his meteoric rise to two European championship titles (which, oddly enough, Marvano does not mention) to his love at first sight for the aviator Elly Beinhorn.
Quickly becoming an idol, Rosemeyer also symbolized the subversive spirit of these runners. Having little liking for the Nazis, it was only coerced and forced that he joined the SS, arousing the wrath of his hierarchy on more than one occasion by his rebellious behavior. Generally speaking, this volume 2 shows the silent struggle of the pilots against an increasingly invasive and totalitarian regime. As we could see in the first volume, cigarettes, alcohol and women were then omnipresent in the paddocks, which was hardly in line with the moral rigor advocated by the Third Reich.
The discerning reader of volume 1 will perhaps be surprised by the virtual absence, in the album, of the rivalry between Rosemeyer and Caracciola, leader of the Mercedes team and winner of the European Championship in 1935. However, it is difficult to say want Marvano to refuse this cliché, repeated over and over again in motor sport fictions, mano to mano. Only small regret: even if it is not completely obscured, Rudi Caracciola takes a back seat. The place is, alas! limited in one album, and alongside Rosemeyer, it's Leslie Toliver - one of the few fictional characters in the series, but nonetheless inspired by Dick Seaman - who gains prominence.
However, the characters often get stolen from the limelight by the story's forward march, even more present in this one than in the last. Eugenics and racial laws (which will apply to the pilot Hans Stuck, whose wife had distant Jewish origins, some concerns), remilitarization of the Rhineland, birth of the Rome-Berlin Axis, invasion of Ethiopia by fascist Italy , Spanish civil war, Sino-Japanese war, first concentration camps… the rhythm of events as of the narration accelerates, while the races are ticked off.
Resurrection of an era
Even more than this permanent presence of the context, which makes Grand Prize an excellent historical comic book, Marvano's tour de force is indeed to resuscitate an entire period. Fiction blends happily with both large and small history, the result of this decoction being a pure concentrate of automobile racing from the 1930s. Perhaps more so than in volume 1, cars and circuits are represented with almost documentary precision: obviously, Marvano consulted an important photographic documentation before embarking on the adventure of Grand Prix.
We will happily rediscover the colors with sepia accents of the first opus, the opportunity to salute the work of Bérengère Marquebreucq in this area. There are many contextual elements that take us back to the era, whether it was outfits, the first paperbacks or the first cans of beer. Particular care has been taken in the sound and musical context, Marvano having even taken the attention to detail to give the reader, each time the album evokes a song, a web link to the video hosting site Youtube. Just copy it to listen to the soundtrack of the album!
This use of modern tools goes hand in hand with a real artistic quality. More than Renaissance, Rosemeyer! contains beautiful scenes, and not just from a strictly graphic point of view. Marvano has a good sense of dialogue and staging, and it shows. From this perspective, the translation (the author is Dutch-speaking) is of great importance, and both Monique Nagielkopf and Eric Montésinos (the latter for the lettering) are to be congratulated: the result is up to par, so much so that we They will gladly pass the few rare shells found here and there.
The mass of documentation used by Marvano is obviously not only iconographic, and it is evident that he also relies on the testimonies of the actors of the epic he recounts. Although much criticized for their sometimes embellished content, the memoirs of Alfred Neubauer, head of the Mercedes-Benz competition department, are thus put to use. The historical precision that has characterized the series since its inception does not however exclude the artistic license of the author, who allows himself a few small additions for the reader's greatest interest. Moreover, when we inquire elsewhere, we realize that few things are invented; others are barely moved in time for intrigue, such as the Tripoli Grand Prix scam, which Marvano replaces in 1935 instead of 1933.
Otherwise, it’s history. We thus come across, not without surprise, the future Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, discovering in passing a little-known part of his sinister career: before implementing with icy efficiency the “final solution” of the alleged “Jewish problem”, the officer SS had made contact with Zionist organizations and encouraged the illegal emigration of Jews to Palestine, with the dual aim of locking them up in a huge open-air ghetto and destabilizing the British in the Middle East.
The end result is once again a success, and it is therefore not surprising that the term "docu-fiction" is used to designate Rosemeyer!, this time in the afterword written by designer Ever Meulen. Now we just have to wait for volume 3 - Farewell - scheduled for the end of 2011, sheds light on the many narrative arcs still pending, and allows us to consider the trilogy Grand Prize in its entirety.
Grand Prize, volume 2: Rosemeyer!, by Marvano, Dargaud Bénélux, 2011.
The series page on the publisher's website.