Book Review – Spirou: The Diary of a Naive Young Man by Script and art by Émile Bravo.

4 out of 5 stars

I would like to thank Europe Comics for providing me with a free electronic ARC of this book, via Netgalley. Any reviews I give are done obligation free, and are unpaid… well, unless you count getting this book for free… but we won’t go there. 😉

Now, the character of Spirou has been a Belgium comic legend since the 1930’s. But this particular comic book was first published in 2018 so, although based on the life of Spirou – and set in 1939 – I think it’s a fairly new creation. And, if the art looks familiar that is because, like me, the author and artist Émile Bravo was a fan of the famous Tintin. And, if I’m honest, it was the reason I asked to read it… as I was a fan of Tintin in my teens… But, I grew up on Asterix and Obelix, so have a history of French and Belgium comics. 😀

Oh, I also like how they do make the joke that Spirou looks a little like the famous Tintin comic book hero of their era… Seeing Tintin was set a few years earlier… I think. I mean, I could go all analytical and google all this information to make it look like I know what I’m talking about, but nah! I would much rather talk from recollection and not sound like I am writing yet another essay for my degree.

Okay, so ‘Spirou: The Diary of a Naive Young Man’ is – if you haven’t guessed it – a comic or graphic novel. It depends on what you want to call it. I always called such books “comics” but know some die hard comic book fans who, once they hit 18, had to justify their love of such things by calling them graphic novels. I’m 43 this year… I still read comic books. Nothing fragile about my ego!

I have to say I really loved ‘Spirou: The Diary of a Naive Young Man’, and had never even heard of Spirou before I requested it. It was the Tintin like art that attracted me and, although there are similarities in the story (location, era, etc) Spirou is indeed a very different hero to Tintin.

‘Spirou: The Diary of a Naive Young Man’ is (I think) the first in the series as it was setting up the life of Spirou and his reporter friend Fantasio as the world heads into World War Two. I don’t want to go into what they were up to, as that would be giving the plot away, but Spirou comes across as having all the right stuff to being the next “boy next door” hero. He isn’t as bold, worldly, or educated as Tintin, and his adventures so far is more low key, but it is obvious he has a big heart and just wants the world to be happy and safe. So, yes, a little naive too.

The reason I loved it so much is because it was yet another comic series I could see myself enjoying – like Tintin, but not. I really want to emphasise that, although I keep likening Spirou to Tintin, they are two different and very distinct characters. I just enjoyed Spirou as it REMINDED me of Tintin, without being a Tintin rip off… If that makes sense?

The only reason I didn’t give ‘Spirou: The Diary of a Naive Young Man’ a full five star rating is because I read it as a PDF on my 7 inch tablet and so it was sometimes hard to see all the details, read it clearly, etc. If I had read it as a paper book, I wouldn’t have had these issues…. If I had a bigger tablet, I am sure it would have been fine too. So if anyone wants me to review it on a bigger tablet, I prefer Samsung. 😉

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would. And yes I would say it’s like Tintin but not. It is a fun, historically set comic book that does have enough of the serious nature to make you think and to educate you on our past histories. I can’t say it would ever be deemed as a suitable way to teach the historical build-up to World War Two to teens… but it would be a fun way to pad out more historically factual texts. Heck, I learnt a lot about Roman occupied Europe from Asterix and Obelix. 😉

Would I buy this book for myself?

Yes I would. And, until someone buys me a larger tablet, I would prefer to have it as a paperback rather than electronic. And I will be looking out to see if there will be more books in this series. One is never too old for a decent comic book.

In summary: A good historical adventure story of a young Belgium orphan dealing with a world about to descend into war.


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