On the Odd Hours (Louvre Collection)
by Eric Liberge
Cover Artist: Eric Liberge
Review by Gayle Surrette
ComicsLit Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781561635771
Date: April 2010 List Price $14.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Bastien, a young deaf student, is sent to an interview for an internship at the Louvre. The internship was set up by his girlfriend, but when he gets there he can't remember the name of the man he was supposed to meet. To make matters worse, he's transgressed one of the museums rules and so he gets in an altercation with a museum guard. In the midst of the problem a museum caretaker, who is also deaf, takes him away while the guard is calling for help. The caretaker offers him an internship working with him to learn his job. Bastien believes that this man, Fu Zhi Ha, is insane but the job sounds interesting and he agrees to show up and be shown around the museum. Of course when his girlfriend hears about this she's very upset.
We learn over the course of the story that Bastien hasn't been doing well at the school for the deaf and is refusing to wear his hearing aids. He's been combative and argumentative and hasn't adjusted to life as they hoped. Bastien wants to work at the museum because of his love of art, but he's not convinced that the little man can hire him or that he's sane. But after his first couple of nights where he sees things that are just unbelievable, he's determined to learn how to do this new job.
Fu Zhi Ha is there to help the artwork during the odd hours. Yes, the hours that aren't even. It's in the odd hours that the works of art come alive and Ha's job is to help them have their time of freedom but to keep them restrained to the museum. Ha is very ill and he's training Bastien to be his successor.
Will Bastien be able to curb his temper and hostility against those who can hear long enough to be trained and keep the job? What if Fu Zhi Ha is crazy? What if Bastien is going crazy and has dreamed it all up? Does art have a life beyond that of the form it is preserved in? Well, to learn you'll need to read On the Odd Hours by Eric Liberge.
The artwork in On the Odd Hours is wonderfully evocative of the moods of the story. Most are nearly monochromatic with a bit of complementary color. The cover is a pretty good representation of the artwork you'll find inside – moody and brooding but also with interesting ways of representing movement and the ASL used by the main character, Bastien.
One note on the typography, I wear glasses for reading and I actually had to dig out a magnifying glass to read most of the text comfortably. Maybe young readers with 20/20 vision will have no problems but if you do wear reading glasses you may also need more assistance than your customary glasses. A friend who wears glasses for distance didn't have any problems with the text, when I asked him to read a sample page.
On the Odd Hours is part of a graphic novel series co-published with the Louvre museum, and ends with a short history of the guardianship in the Musee Du Louvre. This short essay on the museum guards and how their numbers, background, and duties changed over the years is fascinating on its own and in addition to the story is extra value with this beautiful fantastic tale.