The Cross-Eyed Mutt by Étienne Davodeau. NBM, 2017. 9781681120973.
Davodeau has a talent for creating complex, ordinary women characters in his graphic novels, and making me fall just enough in love with them that I fall in love with his books, too. The eponymous character in Lulu Anew who needs to get away from her family after a job interview is a great example. In The Cross Eyed Mutt, it’s Mathilde, whom her brothers refer to as “Chubby.” The small romantic moments between her and her boyfriend Fabien feel amazingly real and are my favorite parts of this book, though there’s lots to love.
The story opens with Mathilde taking Fabien to the country to meet her family. He’s a security guard at the Louvre in Paris, and Mathilde’s brothers and father mock him quite a bit for the amount of sitting he does on the job. Then they tour the family’s furniture business and, after introducing him to Mathilde’s grandad, they show him a painting by Mathilde’s granddad’s grandad that’s been in the family for a long while: a supremely goofy painting of a cross-eyed dog. Soon the family is pushing Fabien to have the painting hung in the museum, and after he talks to a regular patron about it, a plot to do just that is off and running.
This is one of the many Louvre graphic novels NBM has published in the US, and it’s by far my favorite. The best museum moment is when Fabien and another guard bet on how long after they open it will be before someone asks where the Mona Lisa is. But overall the best thing about it is that it provides character-based opportunities to appreciate under-appreciated works in the Lourvre, as well as to comment on some of the more famous art there and the way visitors interact with it. It’s amazing, and a great story.
(This isn’t to say I didn’t like any of the other Louvre graphic novels. My second favorite is the full color book by Jiro Taniguchi, Guardians of the Louvre, about a Japanese comic creator in Paris who visits another plane of reality where he meets the souls of the museum’s art. His drawings have a total wow factor, and there’s a great moment where the character visits the museum while the art was being evacuated in 1939.)