Four of Joann Sfar’s graphic novellas are collected in English as Vampire Loves, featuring Ferdinand, a depressed vampire with an unlucky love life. As the book opens, Lani, a tree-girl, is attempting to return to Ferdinand. She cheated on him with his friend, but she’s willing to come back, although she takes no responsibility and blames him for not trusting her. He doesn’t want her back, but he hopes she returns, even leaving the door open when he goes out in case she does.
Although the use of monsters gives the whole thing a fantastic air, just about anyone will be able to relate to the lives and loves of this group of characters. They’re typical young adults, doing the wrong thing even though they know it’s wrong, because their emotions don’t bend to logic or smarts. They rarely say what they mean or mean exactly what they say, making them frustrating but realistic. And wonderful to read about.
Sfar’s wiggly linework is perfectly suited to drawing these creatures. When Ferdinand flies dejectedly home, you can almost see the resignation and unhappiness trailing behind him in the air. The personalities are involving — they seem like people you could know, three-dimensional, with complex motivations and impulses.
Ferdinand’s picked up by a teenager, who takes him clubbing, but he feels like an old fogey. When they return to her house, he meets her older sister, who has much more in common with him, creating a predicament. All of the characters are at various times unlikable, but they’re very watchable, creating the desire to find out what happens to them. My favorite was Tree-Man, an easygoing chunk of a guy who tries to cheer up Lani but gets frustrated with her when she moves in. He reminded me of the fratboy type who likes women but doesn’t understand them or have the patience to deal with a real one, finding them “complicated” and “exhausting”. That’s a pretty good summary of all relationships, whether human or non-.
Later on, after Ferdinand meets a Japanese girl after hours in the Louvre, Tree-Man gets a powerful monologue about how confusing it can be whether or not to call someone and when. There’s also a cruise with an adventure featuring characters from Sfar’s Professor’s Daughter and an even odder sequence where Ferdinand is co-opted into working with detectives to solve a series of park murders. Sfar is certainly imaginative, taking his characters further than a mere description can indicate. (The publisher provided a review copy.)