The mystery of the locked room and the unexplained murder

In 1991, the lifeless body of Corneille Richelin, a brutally murdered mystery writer, is found in a locked room.

The mystery of the locked room and the unexplained murder

In 1991, the lifeless body of Corneille Richelin, a brutally murdered mystery writer, is found in a locked room. A classic case of seemingly unsolvable crime. Like those that Richelin himself wrote in his novels during the 1930s. This is how Pesadillas ex machina begins, a comic book written by the Belgian Thierry Smolderen and drawn by the Argentine Jorge González, published by ECC Ediciones with a translation by Isabel Moragón Timón. After the shocking opening scene, the story reverses and takes place in 1938, in Paris, when the same character meets other novelists such as Margery Allingham or Ernest Bornemann, who intend to deal a heavy blow to Nazism with an operation that mixes reality. with fiction and where Richelin's own novels must have a decisive role.

Nightmares ex machina mixes real and imaginary characters and the result is a dense and foggy police intrigue that we soon discover is merely an excuse to tell a sophisticated espionage story. Allingham and Bornemann want to apply to real life the same freedom they use to move their fictional characters. Specifically, they want to manipulate Richelin – a writer who uses his nightmares as material for his novels – and turn him into a puppet, make him behave as they wish, acting like that all-powerful deus ex machina figure to which the title refers. , and thus disrupt Hitler's weapons plans at the gates of World War II.

An ambitious and well-crafted comic, with innumerable nooks and crannies inside, such as those that have to do with the repressed sexuality of its characters. A comic to read calmly and savor without haste, which will appeal to attentive readers who want to go beyond a detective story that runs out at the first reading level. Jorge González's splendid drawing seems almost a metaphor for the plot. It is a drawing with several layers but it does not hide that diversity of planes, on the contrary. In the same vignette we can still guess the sketch that beats below and the different color planes that have been superimposed. The result is a drawing that shows and does not hide what is underneath. A misty, dreamlike, phantasmagorical drawing. Characteristics, all three, that fit well with the story.

The plastic virtuosity of Jorge González is well known for highly recommended works such as La llamarada, Fueye or ¡Maldito Allende! For his part, Thierry Smolderen, author of Gipsy and A Year Without Cthulhu, is also a screenwriter, a renowned comic book historian and a fine connoisseur of popular literature. That is why it is not uncommon that in Nightmares ex machina he has fun playing with the classic figure of the writer turned detective but that he does so without relying on the typical reference of the genre –Agatha Christie– but on another great lady of the English novel, a figure less well-known but equally prominent as Margery Allingham, author of The Sign of Fear, published here by Impedimenta.

A fun game between fiction and reality that does not end here, since other real authors such as Simenon, Jean Cocteau or Ian Fleming pass through this graphic novel. Although the reader who takes the time to look for them will find many other literary and cinematographic references, such as those that refer to French cinema produced with German capital during those years, and very specifically L'assassinat du père Noël (1941), which is cited in these pages almost explicitly. Without going any further, the mystery of the locked room found at the beginning of the story is a clear nod to Edgar Allan Poe and The Morgue Street Murders, a story that laid the foundations for the crime novel.


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