Cover Image: The Colony

The Colony

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Member Reviews

With thanks to Netgalley and Europe comics

The colony is a good if short graphic novel/comic. The art work was rather good too,
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An attractive graphic biography of the L'Essai commune, a semi-anarchist community put up in the woods near the French village of Aiglemont before WW1.  The instigator of it all gets his dream, as he finds his ideas of living off-grid with no bosses and no unnecessaries the consumerist society would normally impose reaching fruition, but is that going to be enough for him?  The telling of it all seemed a little dry to me – it needed a bit of a kick now and again, but the true story clearly didn't have that much drama to it, on this evidence.  Needless to say, things didn't work out as idyllically as his companions would have thought, but we know that from copious stories of communist and hippie communes tried on for size since.  And a good proportion of the audience for this would still be optimists who would still think this kind of thing has a chance – or that would be the case if they actually allowed themselves the possession of books.  I wouldn't object to the buying of this, nor put anyone off – it looks very good, but isn't exactly earth-shattering.
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A really enjoyable, short read. I enjoyed this book a lot.

Thank you NetGalley for providing this book for an honest review.
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This was one that I started to read while I waiting to be picked up from work one day. I was surprised that I enjoyed this because its not something that I would usually gravitate towards
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"When one man dreams alone, it is but a dream. When many dream together, it is the beginning of a new reality".

It's funny how a reading of a book can take on a whole different perspective in the light of the times we are living in, and even act as a metaphor for our own times that might be different from what the author intended. The events that take place in The Colony takes on a whole new meaning and hit home all the harder in the light of present circumstances when - over a hundred years since the time of the events that take place here - the world again very much in a state of uncertainty on a scale that no one in has seen in their lifetime.

The Colony deals with some real people and real-historical series of events in France (although repercussions were felt much wider in Europe) during an extraordinary period of upheaval following the industrial revolution. Increasingly disillusioned with how society was changing at the turn of the 20th century and how the ordinary working man was being exploited, in 1903 Fortuné Henry set out to prove that there is another way of living that doesn't rely on those with authority and money to dictate how one must live, but to determine for himself what is truly important.

But not just for himself. Having purchased a plot of land in a meadow at the edge of the Ardennes, Henry hopes to prove that by fending for himself he will eventually win others over to his way of thinking. It's not just self sufficiency or cutting himself off from a world that he has become increasingly dissatisfied with, but it's a kind of benign belief in anarchy, in the strength of the individual and collective to reconstruct society from scratch the way it ought to be. He creates a small colony of lie-minded, hard-working people, L'Essai, the Communist Colony of Aiglemont.

Whether it's coming through the present global pandemic crisis and its impact on the world economy, or whether it takes the next viral, meteorological or environmental crisis to push us, or whether it's embarking on a new trading arrangement and forging meaningful connections with the world outside, the question of social revolution is seemingly one we all may well have to reconsider in our own times as individuals as well as a nation. It's easy to apply a metaphorical quality to The Colony, but the questions it raises and the challenges that have to be met suddenly feel very real and important. Certainly now more than ever people are beginning to see that society is not built in their favour.

That point is made very clearly in Nicolas Debon's beautifully illustrated graphic novel account of the creation of the colony of L'Essai. In Paris, other dropouts from society hear about the colony, word spreads of a place where people truly know the meaning of the word freedom, a place with no state, no money, no class distinctions; "No god, no master". There's a recognition among these silent revolutionaries that "Those who speak of reducing the general suffering are treated as criminals. Those who strive to maintain it are praised as honest citizens." As well as covering the hardships and difficulties of setting up a colony, Debon's book also takes in the wider anarchist activity in the world, painting - quite literally - an important overview of the period.

And indeed Debon's painted artwork is just beautiful. It captures the period and sensibility of the subject well, using thick blocky brushstrokes, but with a remarkable amount of detail and some just stunning painterly compositions. Faces and characters look a little crude but are actually well defined and capable of showing a wide range of expression that hints at underlying character traits. There's some fascinating historical context and photographs provided in an afterword by the author.
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This comic was out of my usual wheel house, which is why I don't think I appreciated it the way it should be. The lush landscapes and vast feeling of the forest is amazing and I especially loved that the colony was a real place. The story itself is a slow burn, because as the reader goes one expects the other shoe to drop. This graphic novel will be perfect for biography lovers and those interested in the history of colonies.
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I really enjoyed this graphic novel because of its art style and entrenching plot. I would highly recommend this to fans of graphic novels and odd, interesting stories.
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I enjoyed the book a lot!
I would like to thank the publisher for giving me a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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When we think of Anarchism in the world of comics (or graphic novels, whichever you prefer), we often turn to Alan Moore’s “V for Vendetta” and tales of attempts to overthrow those in power due to corruption, however, theres actually alot more to the ideals behind anarchism than explosions, aggression and sticking ones finger up at politicians and its this other side that Nicolas Debon tries to teach us as he tells of the true story of Fortune Henry and the colony of L’Essai he founded, for a brief period of time, in the early 1900’s before the world fell into chaos as the Great War fell upon us.

The book opens with a man taking ownership of a plot of land, thought to be inhabitable and unworkable, he begins to transform it. The locals treat him with suspicion, often talking of the devil or wild man in the woods. But before long a small handful of people begin to take an interest in what he is doing and ultimately join him, as the colony grows, the workload also increases, they build settlements, work the land and sell produce at local markets.

However, its not enough for Henry, he strives for change, people believe in what they feel he is trying to do and his ideals of breaking down social constructs, promoting communism (or socialism, though its definetly the former that he says he is trying to bring to fruition, even to the extent of his first born having “no known parents” on his birth certificate as he “belongs to the colony”). He sets up a printing press, first selling flyers to promote the colony and the ideals it was founded upon, though as ever with such things he begins to take ownership, of his responsibility within the colony and also of his partner, acting jealous when she is around other men and resorting to violence when she questions his motives.

As his message spreads, his views become more damaging to the establishment and he is ultimately imprisoned, once free he finds that, without him, L’Essai has fallen apart and the colonists have moved on.

At around 80 pages, this is a short tale, covering the basics, additional information about Fortune Henry is provided at the back of the book, but you’re given a sort of one sided, almost diary like telling of the foundation and falling of L’Essai, albeit told alongside some beautiful art work that looks hand-painted, the earthy tones used give the impression of the book being hand-crafted and fit in perfectly with both the tale being told and the time period it is taken from and Debon does a wonderful job of just allowing the story to work towards its natural end, picking the exact moments to tell, be it the work and turmoil the colonists go through as the seasons and years progress, or the emotional challenges Henry faces. We’re never forced to endure anything particularly long, instead being given a snippet of the tale of L’Essai told in simple panels, though when Debon does give us a full page panel its always a wonderful piece of art work.

That said, this isn’t for every one. I can easily see people wanting some real history feeling like there’s not enough here, likewise, there’s not alot of incident or action to speak of to excite, its not that kind of tale. But if you want to read something that tells a true story that you hadn’t known of, The Colony will fit that brief absolutely perfectly.
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Awe inspiring artwork by Debon. The story is about an idealistic group of people who cut ties with the modern world and in live in a colony; the characters are the sort who say stuff like:

"What effect have even the finest speeches? They ease human suffering, but fail to remedy it."

Genuinely enjoyed this comic, would buy for the art alone.
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Honestly this was a really boring book and I couldn’t wait until it ended. I loved the art style though, especially the nature images 

Trigger warnings:

I would recommend it to history lovers, graphic novel lovers.
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Beautiful, lush art, that really drives home the harshness and the beauty of the landscape. A fascinating (true!) story about a group of idealistic people trying to make a new life entirely their own.

The translation was a little awkward, making it slower to read, but the plot was presented without bias or editorializing. I wish there had been more details about the downfall of L'essai: everyone shifted their priorities to the printing press, and so neglected the practical matters? Who knows - Fortuné goes to prison for 2 years and comes back to a reclaimed, abandoned site.

But when it was good, it was good. I felt genuinely inspired at times, and marveled how they set their mind to a goal and really worked towards it.
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Thank you to Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this graphic novel. This is the story of a little known aspect of French and European history that most today are unaware of. French anarchists were fairly common in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This story is a small snapshot of that era. The graphics are simple but compelling. Other reviewers noted issues with the text but I found it descriptive but not intrusive.
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This book has an air of honesty and a straightforward tone. Even if you are unfamiliar with the story of this commune, it quickly becomes clear that you are reading a true story. There is no moralization or justification. No convenient coincidence. It just tells us what happened, the rise and fall of this colony. Without any state morals, the reader is invited to draw their own conclusions, to reflect upon ideologies, utopias, and human fallibility. A great choice for teens.
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An interesting look at turn of the century politics in France from the perspective of the anarchists. The art expresses both the connection to nature and degraded isolation that were part of the evolution of L'Essai life. The author makes Fortuné Henry appeal to the reader as he would have appealed to his countrymen in the style of Thoreau rather than a dynamite wielding criminal --as French radicals are often depicted from the era.

There is a humanity to the characters. There is serenity in the land around them. It's present in the moment and does not have the Great War foreshadowing over it.
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This was such a beautiful book. I am so pleased that I stumbled upon it. It’s so far from what I usually read but the illustration were gorgeous and the story was so moving. I loved it. Thanks for the review copy via #netgalley. I would recommend this book without hesitation to anyone who loves a good story, regardless of whether they enjoy graphic novels. Perfect. 

I will say though, it was a little cumbersome to read on my Kindle as I had to keep zooming and moving around which might have taken some of the impact away. Still, it was excellent.
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A gorgeously illustrated nonfiction graphic novel that was equal parts beautiful and informative. Prior to seeing the blurb for Debon's The Colony, I had no knowledge of anarchist movements in France in the early 1900's. My understanding of communism and libertarianism is, to be quite honest, lacking as well. Debon told the story of the L'Essai commune of Aiglemont very well. The level of detail and color intensified as more people joined the commune and as Fortune's beliefs spread. Debon's use of color is especially masterful in this graphic novel. This is yet another topic I am interested in learning more about because I have stumbled upon it on NetGalley.
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Rich prose coupled with thoughtful renderings make for an engaging telling of the enlivening story of a group of 20th century anarchists founding their own colony in the Ardennes Forest.
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I really enjoyed that artistry of this book and it's beautifully drawn, but the story didn't draw me in and I got bored.
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It's 1903, when French anarchist Fortuné Henry buys a small plot of land on the edge of the Ardennes, and starts his own anarchist commune, L'Essai. He starts alone, but quickly attracts others who share his ideas, and they start planting crops and building a house. This attracts even more people, journalists, artists, local villagers. As a reader, you are waiting for the moment things will go south, as it seems inevitable.

The book tells Henry's story in beautiful drawings (using chalk, I'm guessing), depicting nature and L'Essai in pastoral sunny colours, and urban scenes in more muted, harsh colours. The drawings tend to be zoomed out, making the characters look tiny in their natural surroundings, which gives the work a sense of epicness, while also emphasising how this is just a moment in time.

It does also means that characters aren't that well defined. The sparse text there is, reads as if taken from an anarchist manifesto (which it probably is). It can all feel a bit unemotional. When families start to leave the colony, we get to see them leave, but not any discussion surrounding it - at this point it is quite clear why anyone would leave, but that is just one example of a moment that could've been dramatised more.

It won't surprise anyone to hear the colony is no longer there, and the written biographical epilogue mentions how the site of L'Essai has returned to nature. I would've loved to have seen a drawing of the site as it is today, in the same style as the rest of the book.

All that said, it's a fascinating story, and the art alone makes it worth reading.
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