Friday, May 29, 2009

Graphic Novel Review: Britten and Brulightly by Hannah Berry

Britten and Brulightly is a curious kind of murder mystery. It follows a private detective named Britten who is known as "the heartbreaker" due to his propensity for breaking the hearts of his clients through his investigations. Along with his unusual companion, Brulightly, Britten solves cases of jealous lovers and exposes ugly truths, but what he wants most of all is to solve a case that does the world some good. When Berni Kudos' fiancee comes knocking at his door, claiming that Berni didn't kill himself, but was murdered, Britten accepts the case and begins to learn that perhaps doing good in the world has more to do with silence than truth. Britten and Brulightly is, to put it bluntly, a fantastic graphic novel. It's difficult to pin down what I enjoyed most about it. Was it the private eye story that reminded me of all the old crime novels I used to read when I was a kid? Was it the artwork? Was it the emotional impact that Berry managed to create within Britten's character and the graphic novel at large? I can't rightly say, because so much about this work is brilliant. The story of Britten and Brulightly, as I mentioned, is sort of your typical noir private eye type story, but I don't mean to make it sound like this is negative. I quite enjoy that old style, both in the art and in how the story was developed. The only problem I had in reading this is that I felt like I was missing something, that maybe there were graphic novelizations of past Britten stories that I needed to read to understand all the references and characters. If that's true, then I would certainly recommend starting with earlier stories first before diving right into Britten and Brulightly; if not, I wouldn't worry about it and read this anyway, because it's not something that significantly detracts from the story. Berry's artistic style is fairly unique--as far as I can tell, anyway. At first I wasn't sure about the art, but the more I read the work, the more I felt like the style fit perfectly for the characters. It has a dark, sort of gritty realism to it, much like you might find in noir. And it's interesting that each of the characters has a design that seems to fit their personalities. Britten, for example, always has a somewhat somber look on his face, and every aspect of his design amplifies his personality. I think it's important to note how effective the art is, because without it I don't think I could have become attached to the characters. One of the biggest shocks for me in reading this book was in discovering what Brulightly was. I won't ruin it for you here, but a part of me laughed and another part of me couldn't help but find it charming. Brulightly acts as a sort of sub-conscious character in physical form for Britten, which is something unusual to me in these sorts of private eye stories, because usually the investigator works alone, with a handful of informants helping along the way. But here Britten has another voice, a person to bounce ideas off of, and it really makes for a delightfully magical realist story. Beyond saying this is a fantastic read, there's no much else to say. So if you're interested in a unique graphic novel with a deeply emotional and powerful detective story, check out Britten and Brulightly at your local store or on Amazon, or wherever. Definitely worth reading!


SQT said...

I'm getting more and more into graphic novels and this sounds fantastic. I will definitely be on the lookout for it.

S.M.D. said...

I'd actually love to review more graphic novels, to be honest, but unfortunately I haven't a clue how to get your hands into that world. A lot of graphic novels don't even show up in stores outside of the manga stuff, which I also really enjoy, but isn't the same as Britten and Brulightly.