Le Squat by Jude Cowan Montague
Sometimes you need to step out of your comfort zone. What better way than to move away from the world of inky print to the digital realm of webcomics. Now I have always had a problem with webcomics. I must admit, I see fantastic art, go to check out the webcomic and get lost. A lot of series seem to have run for five years and have a vast and complicated cast. So I try to start from the beginning. But the navigation options are often slow and confusing and often the art style has changed over the years. At this point I usually give up.
So, good start for a challenge. No, not enough. Why stick with just a webcomic, why not a webcomic in french! So to Le Squat by Jude Cowan Montague. Jude appears to be based in the UK but has taken the entirely admirable step of writing in French. If I had been reaching for the dictionary or Google Translate every five minutes then I might have struggled. But luckily I found the French generally easy to follow and accessible to my level.
Le Squat is the story of Orla, a young woman who also likes to leave her comfort zone. Orla travels to the ‘equatorial mountains’ of a far off land – Bukittinggi in Indonesia. Orla is an inquisitive and curious woman, she loves to learn about new cultures and to sing their songs. Luckily she has “la voix d’un ange”. Fittingly, Le Squat has a nice way with language. Orla was born in Sligo but brought up in Manchester and she is described as “a child of the rain.”
Stylistically the comic uses interesting ‘silent movie’ style captions. This gives a slightly ‘thirties feel. But Orla is aware of her position as a relatively wealthy outsider, far from the panama hat wearing adventurers of old.
The art has a spontaneous and naive style and uses a cut-up scrapbook technique. It reminded me of the loose style of Roald Dahl. It worked particularly well in the psychedelic cooking scenes in the comic.
The plot rattles along nicely and moves away from a travelogue to introduce an element of danger. Later episodes promise a return to London and the introduction of the titular squat. What I really liked about this comic was that I wasn’t quite sure what to expect or what was going to happen next. I felt like an outsider, a bit like Orla herself, and it was surprisingly enjoyable to be in that position. I look forward to keeping up with the story and hopefully improving my French.