By The Numbers Volume 1: The Road to Cao Bang
$14.95, color, 100-plus pgs, available now
Writer: Laurent Rullier
**** (four out of four stars)
Set in Vietnam during its French colonial period and the time when America was part of the fray, “By the Numbers Volume 1: The Road to Cao Bang” follows the accidental exploits of a humble French accountant as he’s pulled to a far off country he knows little about. There Victor Lavallois, the accountant, stumbles into a world of mobsters, money runners, sex slavers, and “so-called journalists wasted by opium, booze and venerial disease.”
Despite his best intentions to keep his hands clean of messy affairs and leave the country as soon as possible, Victor finds himself pulled into a lifestyle of muddied ethics and uneasy alliances.
“By the Numbers” pulls the reader in to an interesting time in Southeast Asia, when being a clever business man could get you far without doing much work and it wasn’t uncommon to run across soldiers of fortune, foreign correspondants and drug addicts in the same city, if not in the same room. It’s unimposing protagonist makes for a great hero that you root for as he gets out of scrape after scrape.
The comic, collected from a popular series in France, features art by Stanisias, an illustrator evocative of Herge’s Tintin. For some, that might be a turn off, but the child-like style gives the story a pureness that is genuinely effective and engaging.
An interview with writer Laurent Rullier in the back of the volume talks about how future editions will follow Victor’s adventures to other far-flung locales and dangerous duties. With luck, such volumes will make it to the American market.