Sunday, December 14, 2008

Review: Nocturnal Conspiracies

Nocturnal Conspiracies (NBM, 2008, 120 pages, $14.95) is the most recent work by French creator David B. to wash up on American shores. It's a comic book dream diary, and as such, although there are some interesting incidents and it works as an excellent showcase for Mr. B's striking artwork, it feels a little slight.

The book's full title is Nocturnal Conspiracies: Nineteen Dreams from December 1979 to September 1994, and it really is just that: David B. has transcribed nineteen of his subconscious exploits onto the page. Each episode seems like an accurate depiction of a dream, if that is possible. Some of the dreams run in a relatively straight line for several pages and feel like short stories, with proper beginnings, middles, and ends. Others jump from one strange environment to the next weird encounter to the next off-kilter adventure, often in the space of a few panels. Almost every panel includes David B.'s narration, informing the reader what the heck is going on and helping to link each sequence together.

Most of the dreams involve violence and are peopled by armed members of dangerous groups: gangsters, terrorists, gestapo agents, armed soldiers, khmer rouge, and straight-up "killers" are all featured. There are lots of chases, lots of hiding from the bad guys. It's all a little spooky and paranoid.

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But even though Nocturnal Conspiracies does what it does very well, I didn't love it. I'd rather read a (graphic) novel, something with a plot and characters that develop over the course of the book. I believe that this originally was published from 1999 to 2000 in three volumes as les Incidents de la nuit, which means that David B. was creating this at the same time that he was working on what would become his widely-acclaimed book Epileptic. That was a pretty heavy memoir of his childhood, detailing his brother's epilepsy and his own retreat into fantasy and art. I would think that making Epileptic was incredibly draining, and I wonder if Nocturnal Conspiracies was the result of the creator just needing to let off some steam.

But that is not to say that you shouldn't read this -- it's definitely an interesting and unique work of art. It looks like David B. just wanted to let his pen to run as wild as his dreaming mind, freed from the strictures of the narrative format, freed from actually consciously thinking up stories at all, depicting everything as he remembered dreaming it.

And even though it's not exactly what I'm looking for in a comic, I still found a lot to enjoy about it. For instance, I really dug dream seventeen, which included both this page:

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and this one:

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It's obvious this guy is a major artist, but this didn't feel like a major work. Mostly, it just made me excited to read his next book.

See a preview here. You can buy it from NBM here or Amazon here: Nocturnal Conspiracies: Nineteen Dreams From December 1979 to September 1994

By the way, it looks like publisher NBM just started up its own blog. Definitely worth checking out.

Disclaimer: This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.


  1. If you've not, you should definitely check out Epileptic, in which David B talks candidly about his brother's epilepsy and how it affects his family. Really one of the best graphic novels I've read in the last few years.

  2. Well, I did check it out (from the library) about a year ago, and found that it hit a little too close to home. I was so unsettled that I actually quit reading part way through and returned it. I know I'll go back to it one day, though, once I'm ready.

  3. Love that artwork. In fact, I think I'm going to nick the last panel of the first image for use as a blog banner.

    Man, I really need to read more David B., especially Epileptic. That's a big hole in my comics experience.

  4. I had a dream one time that I was a giant bagel with chives cream cheese, and I was walking around in a town called "Loxviile". I think this would make a good comic book.