Tardi’s approach, in terms of narrative and plotting, to Pterror Over Paris is surprising. For the entire first act, the reader is left without the expected protagonist. Adèle Blanc-Sec doesn’t initially figure into the story of a newly born pterodactyl terrorizing Paris.
The majority of the first act is newspaper reports and small scenes of the dinosaur’s adventures. When it first appears, on the second page, it’s kind of cute (Tardi doesn’t do cute often here and it’s subtle), but it soon turns into a vicious killing machine.
A young museum employee basically becomes the protagonist for the first half, until Adèle shows up and there’s a handoff scene where Tardi shifts the focus to her.
But Pterror isn’t some adventure comic, it’s a crime comic and a very confusing one. Tardi is being purposefully confusing, at one point having a chase scene between five people in bowler hats and fake beards. Even though there’s not much in the way of excitement, Tardi’s gleeful in the confusion he creates.
Strangely, the pterodactyl is a MacGuffin, which I was not expecting. But it’s almost impossible to talk about Pterror‘s actual plot–not because of spoilers, but because it’s so complicated. A couple integral cast members don’t even make any appearance and another only shows up near the end, without any immediate explanation.
As for Adèle herself, Tardi dissuades the reader’s judgment. Adèle’s likable, but obviously shady.
I like Pterror more than I expected; Tardi’s determination to confound is highly entertaining.