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A French comic-book written by Serge Lehman and Fabrice Colin, drawn by Gess and colored by Céline Bessonneau. The book takes place in a world where most fictional characters are actual weel-known figures (their creators are now their biographers). It's 1939, and by now Europe is rife with superheroes and supervillains whose destinies are tightly interwined with politics, parties and governments. Most of them were born/created during the First World War, when dubious scientific experiments took place in order to create new superweapons. In these Trenchs roamed a famous physicist named Marie Curie, who found these mutants, cared for them, cured them and, in most cases, encouraged them to pursue superheroism. By 1938, Marie's dead and her Institute is now closed ; her daughter Irène (with her husband Frédéric) try one last desperate move to get the gang together, so they can unravel a conspiracy led by fascist supervillains. She's looking in particular for the Chimeric Brigade, a mysterious group of super-heroes that worked for Marie Curie and disappeared with no explanation.
It's basically the french answer to Alan Moore's Extraordinary Gentlemen and Watchmen. Its inspiration comes from the idea that the superhero concept has actually its roots in European Pulp Litterature, whose codes and tropes the modern american comic books modernized. The work is filled with obscure references to now-forgotten novels, films and pulp comics ; needless to say, it makes for an interesting reading.
Also refer to the character sheet !
This series contains examples of:
- All Myths Are True : And all fictions too ! The main difference with The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is that there's an equal mix of historical and fictional characters in the story.
- All There in the Manual : The little tidbits at the beginning and end of the books are more or less required to have the faintest idea of what's going on and of how exactly the Brigade's History differs from our own.
- Arguably, the authors' website contains important informations since it explains at length which fictional works they chose to use and why.
- Badass Normal : The Partisan is supposed to be the Ur Example of this trope, since he's nicknamed "the power-less superhero." This hasn't stopped him from annoying Franco's regime ever since the Spanish Civil War.
- Marie Curie, her daughter Irène and her husband Frederic count as well : they use their intelligence to outwit people with the powers to destroy whole cities. It's actually accurate on Frederic's part : in real life, he was part of La Résistance during the war and kept the french stocks of heavy water safe from the hands of the Germans (a decisive victory for the Allies).
- Some superheroes are most likely to be this as well, such as Harry Dickson, "the American Sherlock Holmes."
- Big Bad : Mabuse is the main antagonist. Big Brother (that is, Stalin) is one as well.
- Bi the Way : YMMV about whether Georges Spad counts as an example. The reveal about her past relationship with Palmyre is supposed to play out that way... But then again, Georges Spad dresses in an overly androgynous fashion that was pretty common for bi-curious individuals of that era.
- Blood Knight : The Baron Brun, big time. It's actually a blood bear.
- Félifax, the Tigerman, is also an example.
- By your powers combined : Inverted with the titular Chimeric Brigade. The protagonist is powerless on his own, he has to divide himself into four different entities who have superpowers. It's explained that his superpower is actually to go into his subconscious and attain the jungian archetypes that structure society.
- Same with Adolf Hitler, who is revealed to have the exact same power.
- Celebrity Paradox : Averted. The characters' creators become their biographers or famous journalists and essayists who gained recognition by writing about them.
- It's actually a plot point later on. The Nyctalope has an enormous inferiority/superiority complex because, while most of his friends, enemies and rivals were immortalized by geniuses such as H.G.Wells, his own legacy was written by mediocre columnists and bad authors - much like in real life, since he was a hero of pulp litterature. This resentment has a lot of influence on the plot.
- Complete Monster : The evil trio of Antagonists :
- Mabuse is obsessed with war, power and superiority. He wanys to enslave the whole of Humanity so that mutants can reign over them. One of the keys to his masterplan involves organizing the extermination of European Jews.
- The Falange is fascinated with Death and everything that accompanies it ; it's a walking killing machine.
- Gog is the embodiment of cynicism. He basically became a supervillain because it's the only way he found to fight boredom. He doesn't even enjoy watching other people suffer, he just hopes the spectacle will distract him for a while.
- Crapsack World
- Deconstruction Crossover : the comic tries to explain why the superhero myth, which actually had its groundings in pulp european litterature, came ro be forgotten in Europe and completely delegated to American culture. The comic's answer is that the elitism of the so-called "gentleman justicers" is what eventually allowed the Shoah and the other atrocities of WW 2 to happen. European superheroes and supervillains alike decided to completely step out of public affairs out of shame for what they did, and felt that the Americans had the moral upground.
- Amongst other examples, Garou-Garou decides to flee to America halfway through the comic out of despair. Since he has the same power as Kitty Pryde, it's possible the authors implied he's her actual ancestor.
- Eldritch Abomination : The Xenobia seems like one at first, but it's only because she's completely confused. When the heroes manage to give her a proper brain, she becomes a perfectly peaceful being who leaves this plane of existence to find its own.
- The Vampyre Queen seems a closer match.
- Mabuse is creating one with Metropolis, in the shape of a city.
- Even Evil Has Standards : Averted with Nous Autres (the USSR) ; characters expect them to have enough standards not to pactize with Mabuse (the Nazis). They really don't. Sadly a Real Life example as well.
- Evil Counterpart : The Gang of Mabuse and his accolytes seems to be set up like one for the Chimeric Brigade.
- Its fits even better later on : they actually share the same superpower, used to have the exact same number of members and all of them fell into the same archetypes.
- Lampshaded as a plot-point : the Hyperworld Club thinks that the Evil Counterpart and Psycho Rangers tropes work a little too well between these two, and realizes that it means they have the exact same powers.
- Genius Bonus : At one point during 1939, the Joliot-Curie decide to work on a new scientific weapon : Frederic baptizes it an "atomic bomb." Artistic liberties with History ? Nope. This actually happened ; the Manhattan project wass only responsible for creating an atomic bomb that works, by the whole idea was originally due to the Joliot-Curie. This fact is not often brought up Today (most likely because the Joliot-Curie, much like Einstein, were ashamed to have been part of the bomb's creation).
- Lawyer-Friendly Cameo : in the first chapter, there's an international reunion of superheroes. The characters speculate about a new member of the American delegation, whose codename is Mr Steele.
- Kind of subverted later when part of his suit is torn off and very clearly reveals the superman symbol.
- Steampunk : Played With, the series is set in a post-steampunk era where Radium is the Applied Phlebotinum that makes the crazy machines work. The authors coined it Radium Punk. Subverted in that it's implied to be part scientific but also part magical, the perfect balance. At the end of the series, the Golem organizes a magical embargo on Europe, which means everything that works with Steampunk and Radium Punk will no longer function, and atomic energy will be pretty much the same as in the real world.
- Viewers Are Geniuses: The whole point of the series is to portray literary characters whose identities have been mostly forgotten by modern media. As if that wasn't enough, there's also a ton of precise references to actual History.