CROIX NOIRE – A New Multimedia Experience (comic and album review)

‘Croix Noire’ is certainly not your usual comic book, not by a long shot. Conceived by Mike ‘The Wombles’ Batt and Jean-Charles Capelli in 2020, it has become a very original thing that should pique the interest of anyone who simply enjoys being entertained.

First, and in plenty of shops from what I’ve seen, is the comic book. It’s in seven monthly parts and each issue contains twenty full colour, large format pages on high quality stock. The story has been adapted by none other than David Quantick, more known for his TV work on ‘Veep’, ‘The Thick Of It’ and, um, “Harry Hill’s TV Burp’. Not only this, but he has also written a fifty thousand word novella to accompany the comic. This is actually found at the back of the comic, and corresponds exactly to the episode you’ve just read. It’s a VERY cool idea, and I enjoyed the small differences between the two.

On illustration duty is Mike Collins, a British comics veteran who is never less than brilliant, and here he has a lovely page size to work with. It all looks fantastic, and Jason Cardy’s colours are spot on as well. This is a very professional publication that’s come right out of left field, and I’m sure will take a lot of casual browsers in WH Smith’s by surprise. It’s only £3.99, which works well as a price point, too.

The story concerns Ace Hansel Jr, inhabitant of the seedy city sector of Croix Noire, where you can go to have a good time or a bad time, whatever floats your boat. Though Ace doesn’t have any super powers, his mentor Colonel Talbot has made him a belt that allows him to control people’s emotions. Sounds a bit odd, but when you see it put to work it’s actually quite innovative. Ace is a self appointed guardian to the people of Croix Noire, and when one of them has his head cut off it’s time to investigate.

I was pretty gripped reading this first part, told by Ace as the narrator which mirrors the prose adaptation nicely. The set up is interesting, the art lively and clear, with the characters well fleshed out as much as is possible in the pages allowed. It’s not like anything you’d get in the likes of 2000AD, though would go well in something like Shift. I absolutely recommend it so get out and pick up a copy.

Now, we haven’t finished yet, as I have also got a pre release copy of ‘Songs From Croix Noir’ by Ace Hansel Jr. Seems Ace is more than a protector of the downtrodden, he’s also a singer! This companion album will be released half way through the comic’s run in late July, and is a collaboration by Capelli and Batt, who devised the music and lyrics between them. Batt’s old mucker and fellow Womble Chris Spedding turns up when guitar is required, too. It’s an odd album, and comes over as the soundtrack to a musical, with lyrical storytelling throughout. Some tracks will get right in your brain (‘A Whole New Day’, ‘Bury Me In Tahiti’), whilst others are more dramatic (‘Get Ratface’). Vocals are provided by Capelli, and he’s good rather than great, but it’s well mixed and overall a cool experience. I can totally imagine reading the complete comic whilst listening to this, and a new track will be released along with each issue so keep your eyes peeled. There’s a QR code in each issue, but I just went to YouTube for the first one, the catchy ‘A Whole New Day’.

The third element to the Croix Noire saga is a video game, available through Roblox. In all honesty I don’t have a clue about that, but if you have Roblox check it out as it’s now live.

So there you have it. ‘Croix Noire’ is first and foremost a great comic book with a first issue that you should check out. From there, there is plenty of opportunity to delve deeper or not, but at the very least you’ll have a great new comic to read.

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