By signing this comic that goes well beyond the Western genre, neyef offers us the album of this beginning of the year. Magnificent in form and powerful in substance.
The comic strip has this advantage that you just have to open an album to know from the start if it is likely to please you. Discovering a novelist’s style requires at least reading several pages. In comics, a quick look at a few boards is enough. So, take a look at the cover of Hoka Hey!, leaf through the 220 pages of the album and you will immediately have an idea of the exceptional quality of the work. This is enough to see that the story Neyef offers you is a story of colors. Glowing colors of the evening at the time of confidences by the fireside under a starry sky. Dappled colors of the undergrowth reminiscent of the shaded scenes of Monet’s paintings. Yellow or whitish color of daybreak when the tops of the trees call to snort to fetch water from the nearby stream. Colors subdued by the clouds of the endless landscapes of Wyoming. But also colors of men. Red for the Indians, white for the settlers, because we are indeed in the United States at the end of the 19th century. The colonists imposed themselves, the Indians defeated and parked in reservations. Yet a Lakota with a face crossed out with red paint, and a woman with a face masked by a scarf refuse to submit. They kill, loot, steal the money of the “wasichus”, the whites, before burning it. They traced a cross on the back or on the face, the one they made on the world that crushes them, the world of cities, of the railway. They were joined by a casual young redhead, he wears a shamrock on his chest, he is Irish. The three form the band of Little Knife that will have to follow, first forced and forced then freely a young Indian, Georges, educated by the Whites in the manner of an apple, “red outside, white inside”. We think of an inverted Little Big Man.
From then on, a journey of revenge takes place, personal and violent revenge of Little Knife, collective violence of the trio against the whites who massacre the bison, despoil and claim all the land, destroy and deny the culture of the Lakota Indians. The story is harsh, violent and never takes pleasure in the ease of the codes of the western, of which it nevertheless respects all facets. Bounty hunter, rehabilitation of Indian cultures, territorial expansion of settlers find their place, but the generous pagination allows to deepen these themes and the dialogues of a precision with the cord distinguish the philosophy of life and the animism of the Lakotas, from the expansion and white materialism. However, there is no question of simplistically opposing wasichus and Indians. The shared violence and hatred lead the story into a dark and destructive logic, where murders multiply, revenge being the only feeling that remains in the Lakotas since justice ignores them.
The tension is omnipresent in the manner of a cinematographic road movie, where the quartet pursues while being itself pursued. The trip becomes initiatory for Georges who not only learns to shoot but also to become a child once again carrying his Indian culture and the values attached to it. Little Knife is violent, Sully the seemingly cynical Irishman and the veiled Indian, No Moon, the bearer of terrible suffering. In contact with them, Georges discovers that the Bible with which the world has been explained to him is not the only possible path.
Neyef, however, sometimes illuminates his subject with tenderness and gentleness. The light bathing its large landscapes worthy of CinemaScope invites us to lose ourselves and take a closer look at these stones, this water, these clouds to which the Indians lend a soul. Rarely have these American expanses, which have been drawn a thousand times, provided so many emotions, like additional characters in the story and which teach Georges the happiness of being in front of the beauty of nature.
“Hoka Hey! “, this cry, “Forward” of the Crazy Horse warrior, Neyef makes it a powerful and original work that goes far beyond genre comics. It leads us to wonder about tolerance and violence, revenge and forgiveness, the richness and variety of cultures. Without forgetting the immense pleasure of reading a breathtaking story with multiple twists. An essential comic in a neat edition.
Hoka Hey! by Neyeff. Editions Rue de Sèvres. Label 619 series. 220 pages. 22.90€.
Rue de Sèvres editions website