The love story at the heart of Paris could take place anywhere. But it also can't take place anywhere but Paris. This collection emphasizes the Paris setting, with artist Simon Gane doing a new visual prologue of the city waking up. The birds are chirping, the lovers are waking (or already busy), and the city is vibrant and alive.
Paris collects a four-issue series, plus the prologue to the original collection, plus this new prologue. Gane does four double-page spreads moving through the city before a single page introducing the protagonist, Juliet. Though it helps if you know to look for her because Paris is full of life, full of people.
The next prologue (the original collection's prologue) follows Juliet on her way to school. She's in art school, drinks coffee, smokes cigarettes, and loves Paris. It also introduces her love interest, Deborah, having a very different experience in Paris. She's sequestered in Hotel Anglais, her maiden aunt chaperoning and programming their Parisian visit. It's just a couple-page introduction, Deborah looking longingly at the city she's missing, but the moment does a bunch to set her up.
The collection proper—issues as chapters—begins with Juliet in class, listening to her blowhard instructor, and getting a commission for a portrait painting. Juliet has to do portrait paintings of young ladies because fathers (and chaperones) don't want male artists staring long enough to paint. Andi Watson's script quickly sets up the ground situation (what's really impressive is how well Gane's able to transition from a relaxed, visual-first pace to rapid-fire exposition). Juliet's got a male friend at the art school, Gerard, who can't shut up about his jazz and mad crushes on her. She's from the United States (New York) and can't afford her tuition without the commissions. She lives with Paulette, a revolutionary who has to hand wash (and hang dry) all her lingerie at the apartment because they're too delicate for the laundromat.
Both Paulette and Gerard are French and speak a mix of French and English to Juliet. There's a translation guide at the end of the book, but it's mostly unnecessary. One might miss some occasional details, but they always come through either in English dialogue or thanks to visual references.
Juliet goes to the portrait sitting, assuming her subject, Deborah, will be the same terrible blue blood she's always painting. After Aunt Chapman (everyone calls her "Chap," which I thought meant chaperone until I realized her last name's Chapman) is a momentary pain before exiting, Juliet realizes Deborah isn't what she expected. One of the book's most delightful, subtle strokes is when Juliet reveals Deborah introduced herself as "Debs," even though that scene isn't on the page. There will be other subtle implications throughout, but none of them is so… charming.
The chapter ends with Juliet starting her sketches, well on her way to being smitten with her subject.
The portrait painting itself is Paris's main plot, at least from Juliet's perspective. Chap doesn't want to pay for another sitting, but Juliet can't capture Debs from photographs. So Juliet has to engineer ways to see Juliet, which leads to the two exploring Paris together and falling in love with the city. And each other.
The supporting cast expands a bit, with Debs's brother, Billy, joining her and Chap in Paris. His presence allows Juliet and Deborah to get some time together, though why exactly Billy's got time to fake chaperoning his sister will figure into the plot later. There's also Rennell, a potential suitor for Deborah, who's got nothing going for her if she doesn't marry well. Finally, there's Paulette's boyfriend, who doesn't get a name but has some really funny scenes.
The comic's going to leave Paris behind for the finale, which tracks Juliet and Deborah back to their "normal" settings, all the delight of Paris behind them. Except, of course, they then learn through unfortunate experience, some of what made Paris Paris was them, not the city. It's a great finale, with Gane getting back into the full-page city splash shots by the end. In the Paris sections of the comic (proper, so going back to the original series), Gane does these splash pages of Paris street life. Sometimes Juliet will be in them, on her way to find Deborah; sometimes, it'll just be street life. The movement's the same throughout, full of Gane's little observations about the people and the place. It's lovely. Especially considering it's the fifties or sixties, Deborah and Juliet's romance might not do so well on Long Island or in rural Surrey.
Paris is a gorgeous comic, with Gane doing phenomenal character work on its leads—much of Debs's character development comes through in expressions, for example—and Watson's script is outstanding.
Like I said, in addition to being expert and excellent, Paris is also profoundly lovely.