Le retour de Cromwell Stone

Story Information
TitleLe retour de Cromwell Stone
Number of pages46
Context Information
AlbumLe retour de Cromwell Stone
AlbumCoffret tomes 1 à 3
AlbumCromwell Stone: all 3 stories
SeriesCromwell Stone
Magazine PublicationComic Art (1996, number 142)
from the article "Andreas prefers not to explain everything (1995)":
Isn't it tiresome to work out a fixed idea for the long time it requires?
Andreas: It took me a long time indeed to work out the drawings for the second part of Cromwell Stone. It took so long because I somewhat lost sight of the story I was making. Normally speaking I like to hurry up with the drawings, because the story is central. In this case I was completely consumed by drawing it. I had foreseen that, when I wrote the scenario. I wanted to live it up with drawing for example the double pages that are filled with ships. Now this album is finished, I've had enough of this way of working for the time being.
The drawing of the second part is much more detailed then the first part. Is that a conscious breach of style?
Andreas: I use more of the hatching technique and more shades of gray. I don't know what caused that. I just felt like doing it. It suited the story. It doesn't bother me that there is a breach of style between the albums. The third part may look very different again.
You make use of extreme perspectives and transformations in your drawings. Why do you chose to do so?
Andreas: The story often forces me to it, or... Actually I don't know. I like to make it hard on myself. That double page in Le retour de Cromwell Stone took me three weeks. After a week I found out that it didn't work and it had to be done over again. I was fed up with it then already. Still I want to continue at such a moment until I am satisfied with it. Eventually the result is not what I wanted, yet it resembled it so I kept it that way.
from the article "The mystery Andreas (1996)":
"In Le retour de Cromwell Stone I refer with certain details to Breccia, Moebius and Twin Peaks. Sometimes readers find out these references, but often it's about something obscure or a personal note."
from the article "Figures and Representation of the Fantastic in Andreas's Work (2001)":
The Return of Cromwell Stone: The Strangeness of a 'Déjà-vu'
With Le retour de Cromwell Stone, the fantastic becomes fixed in a more classical set of themes of the relationship between man and fragments of alterity. But as an element in a series--a sequel to a previous volume--the challenge in this volume is no less precise. According to Todorov, a fantastic story loses part of its evocative power during a second reading. Because all doubt has been dispelled, any re-reading of a fantastic story becomes a kind of meta-reading (Todorov, 1970: 95). So how could the feeling of hesitation and confusion, which is so characteristic of the fantastic, survive at all? In The Return, indeed, the story takes the traditional path of the fantastic and stages the quest of an innocent character/narrator trying to come to terms with a reality beyond his comprehension, in which he has to face his shattered perceptions. But this in itself is hardly enough to restore the experience of sensory friction in the reader-besides, what Todorov said about a re-reading can also be said about a story's sequel. How can we re-establish this feeling of confusion in a story where the elements of the fantastic are already familiar and have been put in context in advance? In fact, far from trying to minimize this effect of re-reading, Andreas uses it as a stepping stone to develop other narrative strategies aiming at the fantastic effect.
The opening page of The Return of Cromwell Stone (see Figure 3) does not, unlike the one in Coutoo, attract attention by the construction of an improbable reality. On the contrary, the Andreas reader is rather struck by a strange feeling of familiarity, a "déjà-vu." The reader cannot but compare it to the opening page of the first story of this cycle (see Figure 4), which it recreates in theme as well as composition. This recreation is both meticulous and strangely shifted. Just as the incipit-page of the first Cromwell Stone, it is structured around a composition with two similarly proportioned panel sequences (about 2/5 and 3/5 in height), and it presents a similar distribution in the panel sequences: the top panel sequence consists of five panels, and the bottom panel sequence is filled by only one image. We also find the same distribution of elements (one character is running towards the right in the top panel sequence, and the building to which the character is running is shown on the bottom panel) and the same system of focus: zoom-in in the top panel sequence, general overview in the bottom panel sequence, with quite similar postures on certain panels (17). To this, we can add the recurrence of a quotation in the bottom image (18).
However, paradoxically, the similarities of these incipit-pages (see Figures 3 and 4) help bear out some distinguishing characteristics that are essentially thematic (19). The male character is replaced by a young woman; the feeling of salvation (At last!) becomes one of dejection (I can't bear it anymore!)(20). Besides, the mineral elements (rocks, cliff) and aqueous elements (sea, rain) that dominated the first incipit have now been replaced by an abundance of vegetation (trees, herbs, plants) and full darkness after dusk. The most significant element, in this play of similarities and differences, is reserved for the reading: the quotations seem to fit together and react to each other. The first quotation ends with three suspension points, whereas the first word of the second quotation, "because," is preceded by three suspension points. Thus, the second quotation seems to be an explanation of the first one: "Fear is the oldest emotion of mankind because man is but a tiny creature...(21) Despite the constant plot shifts in the volume, the feeling of familiarity initiated on the first page does not diminish during the reading (22), and the composition of this incipit-page becomes emblematic of the narrative strategy in its entirety, since this volume actually resumes the first one, both in its general conception and in its set of themes.
Similar structural effects are used in both volumes: abrupt narratives, multiplying flashbacks, and even second-level flashbacks (23), so that the reading oscillates between three distinct but interlaced levels of temporality (24). Even the frameworks of these narratives seem to echo one another: here again, Cromwell Stone returns from Europe to America by boat; here again, the "key" is on board; here again, "wreckers" will step in during the crossing; here again, Stone and his companion will come back to Loatham, revisiting places that are still recognizable, despite the invasion of vegetation--Stone's house, the water tank, the enigmatic tower. Thus, the title, The Return of Cromwell Stone, has a threefold meaning: the return of a character who has been away for ten years, the return of a character to the site of his past adventures, and the return of the framework of the first volume.
Surprisingly, this familiarity does not diminish the effect of the fantastic in the narrative. On the contrary, it constitutes the very essence of this effect. With The Return of Cromwell Stone, the reader is not simply confronted with a series of events that is innocently added to those of the first volume. Instead, the linearity of the chain of events is reinforced by a logic that takes the shape of a spiral. A new, shifted loop presents itself: not only does The Return stage events that seem to repeat those of the previous volume, it also includes these in a larger view, providing the framework of the first volume with a new series of events, upstream as well as downstream. Far from being a useless repetition, this movement has a destabilizing effect because the narrative, as it unfolds, systematically modifies many perceptions and certainties previously acquired by the reader who, confronted with these reversals (25), will be led to a new and surprising reconstruction of the way this universe works. Thus, the author's strategy can be perceived more clearly-far from minimizing the proximity to previous adventures, he builds on the reader's acquired knowledge and plays a structural game by introducing elements diverging from this knowledge (26). It is from this forced re-reading, maintained by the narrative structure and its shifts, that the feeling of confusion arises, which was effectively begun on the opening page (27).