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After the misadventures of Antoninus during the Spanish Civil War, this new opus immerses us in post-war Brest alongside his son Marius. A priest in a city ravaged by war and in full reconstruction, Marius discovers a city of barracks, a working-class city where demands growl and clash with intransigent employers who do not hesitate to rely on intimidation and murder when the law no longer serves their interests.
In this explosive climate, Marius meets ’a union worker priest which opens up a new perspective for him to live fully in the service of the most disadvantaged this thirty-third year of his life which a curse announces to be the last. An original and well-conducted comic strip, a thrilling scenario and perfect intellectual honesty on what is historical and what depends only on the imagination of the authors.
The curse continues
Last May we presented this new saga with the release of the first opus: "Antonin 1937". This first opus, which took place in the middle of the Spanish Civil War, introduced us to the curse weighing on a family since the discovery of a pre-Columbian idol: all the eldest sons of the family seem doomed to perish in their 33rd year. In turn, Antonine's son, Marius, finds himself confronted with this terrible revelation and this crucial question: what to do with this life that promises to be so short? Already a seminarian under the impetus of a pious mother, Marius was convinced by the latter that God had a mission for him, a mission in the image of that of Christ who also died in his thirty-third year. When he was considering leaving the seminary to enjoy the one he loves, Marius then embraces his vocation body and soul and becomes a priest. He was then sent to Brest in 1954. The city of Brest was completely destroyed by the Allied bombings during the Second World War, the city is in the process of reconstruction, the population lives in precarious barracks while the factories are operating at full capacity. Workers are working overtime without seeing their wages soar proportionally. Workers' demands are intertwined with communist militancy (the USSR then appears to be a perfect counter model) and anti-colonialist protest at the end of the Indochina war. For their part, most of the bosses are well aware of the strength of the employees who benefit from full employment and whom the prefect has not dared to repress violently since the scandal of the death of a demonstrator. For them only one solution is necessary, to help to sink one of their colleagues and to have the company taken over by a Spaniard who will use labor from his country: thus making the French workers made redundant will create the rate of unemployment necessary to make the working class more docile, less able to claim ... A topical issue if there is one ... In this explosive context, Marius quickly discovers the existence of a parallel clergy in this milieu of workers in Brest, that worker priests, trade unionists, who try by all means to help the most deprived, even if it means breaking the law. Surprising one of them stealing a golden statue of the Virgin in order to melt it down, Marius finds himself drawn into the cycle of clandestine struggle between workers and bosses. But for him who knows how to live his last year, more than one thing really matters: to accomplish the mission that God has entrusted to him by spotting the signs that He puts in his way.
A breathtaking story
In this saga which brings together four screenwriters, it is this time Jérôme Félix who plunges us into a poignant story, in a humanist and clandestine quest doomed in advance to a dire fate. The drawings by Xavier Delaporte and the beautiful coloring by Scarlett Smulkowski perfectly support this convincing scenario to make it a thrilling story, not to say addictive so much we can not give up before knowing the outcome. Suffice to say that for Xavier Delaporte, of which this is only the second album, perfectly integrated into this project and serve it brilliantly!
From fiction to reality: rare transparency!
In any historical comic, or at least with a historical framework, the reader neophyte on the period is generally embarrassed to sort out what depends on the History, and what comes only from the imagination of the screenwriter and the creative freedom of the designer. This is something we pay a lot of attention to since some publishers do not hesitate to present as historical stories that are only partially historical. Nothing to reproach from this point of view to this comic, from the first page the author puts things clear: he wishes to revive the barracks and the social struggle of post-war Brest, but he kept great freedom and the story as a whole remains a fiction. However, given the historical context, also given the participation in this project of former trade unionists and members of the association of former Bouguen, we suspect that there is some truth behind ... This is why we are campaigning for the presence of files at the end of the comic to briefly present to the reader what is true in the story he has just read, possibly redirecting him to other works, and thus making a bridge between fiction and historical reality. In other words, to give an additional mission to the ninth art: that of helping to popularize history.
As such, the Wide Angle editions are to date those which do it the most systematically, at least for the first editions of each comic. This second volume of "La Lignée" indeed includes a special file produced in collaboration with the heritage department of the city of Brest. Certainly very brief, but richly illustrated, this special file presents to us from a historical point of view several key themes of the scenario: the history of the city of Brest and its destruction during the Second World War, the installation of the barracks, the explosion of Ocean Liberty, social struggles, and finally a few lines on the city of Brest today. The whole thing, from the hand of Christine Berthou-Ballot, head of the Heritage department with photos from municipal and community archives (but also from individuals). Finally, the dossier ends with a small bibliography directing the curious reader to a few books and websites where he can further research. So to speak, there would be only one thing missing from this dossier to be complete, there would be only one key theme which deserves to be addressed and which is sorely lacking: it is the worker priests. It is indeed astonishing that these representatives of extreme left Catholicism, so present in comics, are so absent from the dossier. Their story is unique, of men who in post-war France live out their vocation in factories, as close as possible to the workers they support in the unions and even in the political parties of the left. We find them in demonstrations, in strikes, and they end up worrying both the Pope, who is wary of their far-left impregnation, and certain atheist communists, who are suspicious of their evangelization ... In 1954, Pius XII put an end to to the plan of the worker priests and force them to quit their work in the factory, not all will obey. But in 1965, after the Vatican Council II, Pope Paul VI authorized them again to practice and there were around 800 ten years later on sites and in French factories! Accepted by the modernized Church of Vatican II, worker priests are still present in France today.
In addition to this sad absence in the file (but now that we have underlined it our readers will be able to go and complete their knowledge by themselves on this subject), this comic strip is therefore noted for its intrinsic quality, but also for its ability to bring together many actors from the ninth art, trade union circles, associations and the Heritage department of the city of Brest who together achieve a very good result perfectly combining History and fiction in a transparency which is to their credit! A great example for the comic book industry to follow, and a great Christmas present to consider for our readers!
- Antonin 1937
- Marius 1954
- Maxime 1973 (to be published)
- Diane & David 1994 (to be published)
Screenplay: Jérôme Félix
Drawing: Xavier Delaporte
Colors: Scarlett Smulkowski
Editions: Wide Angle
To complete the file, on worker priests:
- CAGNE Bernard, Worker-Priest at La Courneuve: Un rebellious from 1954, 2007, Karthala.
- DELBREL Madeleine, Marxist city, mission land, Paris, 1957, republished in 1970, Le Cerf.
- GIARD Jean, Fifty years at the frontiers of the Church. From the Mission de France to the teams of Ivry, Paris, 1994, L'Harmattan.
- Lémonon Michel, Laurent or the itinerary of a worker-priest, 2000, Karthala.
- OLHAGARAY Jean, This wall must be broken down. Worker priest of the Paris Mission, 1999, Atlantica editions.
- POULAT Emile, The worker priests. Birth and end, 1999 (revised and completed edition), Éditions du Cerf.
- WATTEBLED Robert, Strategies catholiques en monde ouvrier in post-war France, 1990, Paris, Les Éditions Ouvrières.