I tell ya, it’s a lot harder to review a book that you don’t really like…
Ok, so today we’re reviewing The Professor’s Daughter, an … odd little book originally published in France (and presumably in French) in 1997, and then translated to English and published by First Second in 2007.
Ah, what can I say about this story… Well, why don’t I start by trying to describe it. The Professor’s Daughter is the tale of the daughter of a cruel professor of Egyptian antiquity, who carries on a brief love affair with the inexplicably animated mummy of Imhotep IV. They accidentally murder some people, and then she’s kidnapped by the inexplicably animated mummy of Imhotep III, who is of course the disapproving father of Imhotep IV. Then other silly things happen. The professor just wants Imhotep IV back in his display case. At one point the queen of England is tossed into the Thames by a mummy.
Look, I know this is a comic book, and I’m more than willing to suspend a little disbelief for a good time. The thing is, this book is just plain weird. Now, a little weirdness is great, as long as it’s an island of weirdness in an otherwise plausible scenario. And my problem is not that the mummies are animated. Animated mummies? Great! I’m into it. My problem is that the other characters’ interactions with the mummies are just ridiculous, and logic is applied all willy-nilly.
For example: Imhotep IV gets wasted off a cup of tea, because he hasn’t consumed anything for 3000 years and his digestive system is all dried up – one of the many practical hurdles for a reanimated mummy. He drunkenly assaults a man in the restaurant where he is having tea. The man is apparently unfazed by the fact that a mummy is having tea in a restaurant, but is enraged that the mummy has insulted his honor. And the rest of the book continues on that way.
I’ve checked out a couple other French comics (The Adventures of Tintin, Gus & His Gang), and I’m starting to detect a pattern of little differences. For example, the pace is very steady. There’s not really an introduction and then a sense of building and then a climax – the kind of story structure you’re probably familiar with. Here, you just kind of jump in and then a bunch of things happen and then it’s done. Also, the tone is different somehow. The driver of these stories – the underlying conflict – is more likely to be based on principles of propriety and endless discussion. Perhaps that’s just the way French entertainment is – and that’s fine. It’s just a little too cerebral for my boorish American comic-book-reading tastes.
One good thing I will say about the story is that it’s short (no – seriously), and the events happen in rapid succession, so at least it’s not boring. So if you want to check out something bizarre without making a major investment of your time, then The Professor’s Daughter might be just what you’re looking for!
I will give The Professor’s Daughter this: the artwork is beautiful. Emmanuel Guibert’s lush panels are rendered in pencil, watercolor, and ink (I believe), and they are very, very nice. Lively, energetic, and animated, the illustration was actually quite a treat for the eyes, and probably contributed to me actually finishing the book.
My lack of enthusiasm for this book can probably be in large degree chalked up to personal preference. Perhaps, much like The Lost Colony, I just don’t get it. But, the mission of this blog is to give you my opinion on the comics I read, and I’m giving The Professor’s Daughter a rating of 3 out of 10. I’m sure some people would consider this a fine literary work. If you’re one of those people, by all means, hit up the comments section. But I’m grading on a “would-you-recommend-it-to-your-friends” basis, and frankly I would not without some serious caveats, which I’ve detailed above.
Anyway, that’s my 2 cents. Happy reading!