‘Elle(s)’ is the latest comic from Belgium-based author Kid Toussaint, and artist Aveline Stokart. Detailing the experience of new-girl at school Elle, upon first glance one might be tempted to think that is a generic coming-of-age story. What lurks beneath the surface, however, is far more interesting: mystery, false identities and evil doppelgangers collide to form this intriguing first issue.
Publisher: Europe Comics
Writer: Kid Toussaint
Artist: Aveline Stokart
Price: £7.49 from Europe Comics
Elle(s) We’ll admit, on our first flick through of Elle(s), we assumed it would be a semi-generic coming of age story aimed at a YA demographic. We couldn’t have been more wrong. Whilst Elle(s) does embody some tropes of a bildungsroman, it quickly evolves into something much more, with dark moments, real emotions, mystery, and intrigue. While younger readers will enjoy it, it’s definitely entertaining for all ages.
Elle(s) is certainly a blast from the past for older readers, as we’re transported back to the epic highs and lows of high school politics. Author Kid Toussaint does an excellent job of depicting the generic high school popularity chain, with pompous kids like Justine and Safia at the top, and Elle and her gang of misfits at the bottom. Elle’s friend group on the other hand, is wonderful, and shows how real friends will always have your back (we particularly loved Maëlys and her iconic space buns!). Other relatable moments include the awkwardness of first love, and the terrors that accompany giving a presentation in front of the whole class (shudder). Through Elle’s interactions with her school mates, Aveline Stokhart’s art really gets a chance to shine, as she goes all in on facial expressions, depicting character’s emotions brilliantly (and often humorously).
Obviously, the stand-out feature of this graphic novel is its portrayal of different personalities, both through its art and writing. Elle feels totally out of control in her own body, as she doesn’t know when one of her personalities will take over in response to external stimuli. Stokart depicts this wonderfully, through her choices of hair colour and distinct facial expressions for each personality. This is something that only the reader, not the surrounding characters, can see and it’s great to get an insight into when Elle is not herself. When each personality was fronting as Elle, they were so distinct from each other, yet all aligned to emotions that the original Elle was feeling. Blonde Elle is competitive and aggressive, brunette Elle is timid and emotional, green-haired Elle is mysterious and silent, while purple is funny and carefree. And original Elle, with pink hair, seems to be a culmination of all these personality traits. The initial scene in which Elle changes personalities from pink to blonde is portrayed as swimming deep into the ocean in her mind. The colours and artwork on this full-page spread are gorgeous, and the metaphor is really powerful.
There’s also the mysterious blue-haired Elle, who seemingly only appears in Elle’s mind as she is unable to manifest herself as Elle. As she is originally depicted as chained/locked up in some sort of mind prison, the reader is left to imagine the chaos she would unleash if she were free and able to control Elle. We are given hints throughout that she is malevolent, and there are some dark moments where she really tries to mess up Elle’s life. The art particularly shines in these sections, with a much darker colour palette – something that Stokart incorporates and adapts throughout the entirety of Elle(s). With each personality comes visually distinct backgrounds, colour palettes and facial expressions. We also loved the inclusion of drawn polaroid pictures as dividers between sections: we got to see Elle and her friends having fun, and enjoying events like Halloween, New Year, and sleepovers. It was wholesome and heart-warming and gave a new depth and longevity to Elle’s friendship with her peers, which admittedly has little time to develop in under 100 pages.
Elle(s) is definitely one to watch out for. The first issue ends on a total cliff-hanger, with Elle questioning her concept of what is real, and her sinister blue-haired personality seemingly getting closer to gaining control. We can’t wait for issue #2!