Reverso world: the review

Reverso world: the review
Close your eyes and imagine a western world full of guns, red Indians and horses, where men are women and women are men. A world, in short, in which men wear skirts or look after children, while women engage in violent raids and shootings or save the "damsels" in danger. Here, now reopen your eyes and admire Mondo Reverso, the new transgender graphic novel by Arnaud Le Gouëfflec and Dominique Bertail, and you will discover that you can no longer do without it.

A brilliant comic, behind whose humor lies a careful view on traditional roles, genders, sexuality, never banal and rich, on the contrary, with ideas that could lead many to perceive our society in a different way. Just look at things from one point of view… the other way around. Follow us along our review of Mondo Reverso. | awareness: Mondo Reverso, a two-volume graphic novel by Le Gouëfflec and Bertail who published it in France with Fluide Glacial. Who are the two authors of this rather revolutionary comic that has also arrived in Italy?

Arnaud Le Gouëfflec is the author not only of comics, but also of novels and songs. The French author has signed several comics since 2007 including V ilebrequin, Topless, La Frère de Göring, up to Mondo Reverso, while his novels include Basile et Massau, Le Bestiaire secret de Lord Bagamoufle, Le Discrets, The Noctambule. Music expert, he is also the founder of the Brest Invisible Festival. Dominique Bertail is an illustrator fan of Lucky Luke, and since 1998 he has started his career as an illustrator on comics such as L’Enfer des Pelgrams, Ghost Money, L’Homme Tableau and L’Homme Nuit. In more recent times we find him working on several issues of Infinity 8 and the two volumes of Mondo Reverso, although his work also includes the creation of storyboards for advertising and cinema.

Read also: What is Weird Western?

With Mondo Reverso, one could say that the two authors have understood a lot of things: they have understood for example that to understand certain phenomena it is perhaps necessary to invert and subvert roles, to put the protagonists of society in each in the shoes of the other. They understood that with salacious jokes and licentious puns that inevitably tear a smile you can also stage something that for many may be "strange" to accept. And they understand how the world really turns, even if through a work of fantasy.

Reverso world, the world of Cornelia and Lindbergh

We are in Arizona. In that inhospitable and ruthless corner of the world where the strongest do not survive, but those who are faster with a gun or with a bow and arrow. It is not men who take up arms, as in the most classic western films we know, but women who spit tobacco, kidnap men or scalp their enemies. On the contrary, men joyfully bathe in the river dressed only in their petticoats, gossip with friends, do housewares.

This is where Cornelia lives, a tough woman with a Clint Eastwood look who tries to escape to the law and to those who would like to collect the rich bounty on his head: he then disguises himself as a man (wearing lace and lace) and flees into the desert. And it is in the relentless desert that Cornelia meets Lindbergh, a man who instead escaped from his asphyxiating marriage and found himself for a series of fortuitous circumstances in the pay of a ruthless criminal, who requires his medical knowledge: to keep up with the game and not get killed, Lindbergh disguised himself as a woman (in a jacket and trousers, if you had any doubts).

The two will thus join in a bizarre and over the top journey, to rediscover a mysterious elixir capable of modifying the sex of individuals, but above all to survive those who hunt them. Along that frontier where lead sets the rules and the boundary between genres has been erased to give life to a new world, upside down.

A brilliant comic

Mondo Reverso is that kind of work for which, after reading it, you might think “Why didn't I think about it first?”. A great stroke of genius that comes from a simple but effective idea: what would the world be like in reverse roles? The comic by Arnaud Le Gouëfflec and Dominique Bertail thus shows us the subversion of gender stereotypes by exploiting precisely those stereotypes that have more or less always characterized our general ideas about what men should say and do and what they should say and doing women.

We see it for example when one of the protagonists who undergoes a transformation from a woman into a man, is mocked and addressed by his companions with phrases such as "Your place is in the kitchen". When Lindbergh reflects on his life choices with a joke that we would have heard thousands of times, uttered by a woman: "Dad was right, I shouldn't have married a business woman! ". Or simply when the women sitting at the bar groped or slap on the buttocks of the seductive waiters.

Mondo Reverso adopts stereotypes and overturns them to make fun of preconceptions, of those clichés that are sometimes too sadly rooted in the society, social conventions that arise from sometimes bigoted, conservative, traditionalist ideologies. Emblematic in this sense is the scene of a "brother" (or a male nun) who, mad for the idea that a family can also be made up of two fathers or two mothers, faint and faints (falling into a river) . The comic by the two French authors is therefore not simply humorous, but completely satirical, targeting those who support their crusades against the LGBTQ community in the crosshairs of its biting lashes: all, without ever moving harsh criticisms or using offensive jokes, but always with that biting irony that makes it so brilliant.

It is obviously an adult work, which contains explicit scenes, anatomical forms in plain sight, a euphemistically colorful language, not to mention deaths rather truculent. The general atmosphere, however, is always permeated by the subtle humor that is full of this world: a woman who lets herself go flatulence at full blast, for example, or men who seek the protection and comfort of women when they feel in danger.

Belts and laces

The Gouefflec and Bertail essentially put the reader in a position to imagine himself in the other's shoes. And they do it through a setting, the western one, which in our imagination is based in general on some basic ideas: the men are all hard, ruthless and trigger-happy, while the women are the damsels in danger, the angels of the hearth or saloon prostitutes with garters on display. In short, among the highest peaks of sexism.

That Mondo Reverso is also a tribute to the key figures of the genre is evident in several images and the very background of the two artists leaves no doubt, but probably set this story in another era, in the context of another place, it would not have had the same efficacy, the same stinging charge of which the fiery and ruthless world of the far west is full. Mondo Reverso is truly a small original pearl, whose audacity and inventiveness can hardly be found in other works, although it is based on a "simple" assumption: men are women and women are men.

The implications of seeing women in the shoes (in every sense) of men and vice versa are always quite funny and in Mondo Reverso the contrast is made more by the fact that members of one or the other gender always maintain their characteristics physical: for example, there will never be the androgynous, masculine-looking woman, so much as seductive beauties wearing belts and spurs, while men will have hairy breasts poking out of the necklines of their lacy dresses.

However Mondo Reverso is much more: with his satire, he shows us some of the contradictions and ugliness that often distinguish the discourse around gender and sexuality. The harassment of the patriarchy, intolerance towards the "different" and the "transvestite", the refusal of women in the role of leader, the inability to accept that men also have the right to express their emotions. Behind the laughter, in short, there is the reference to a world that still today, at the threshold of 2021, has far too far to go to erase intolerance.

Unique physicality

Lo Bertail style is perfect for this Reverso World set in the far west. His illustrations are sometimes very loaded, with faces and bodies with accentuated proportions, but full of expression and life. The artist then dwells a lot on the delineation of the peculiar traits of the individuals he represents. Wrinkled faces, sagging breasts, prominent bellies: there is never a character alike and in their imperfect being they are all perfectly realistic, albeit depicted in a style that is very reminiscent of satirical illustrations.

Le facial expressions are very eloquent and sometimes it is enough to look at the face of a character to get a laugh. An excellent work for Cornelia, who already on the cover presents that typical look of the gunslinger focused on the next man to be shot, which is exceptionally reminiscent of Clint Eastwood's most famous expression.

One point less at the Bertail house, who draws every single woman in her comic with huge breasts, which as beautiful as they may be to look at, it is really difficult to imagine that a world can be populated only by such busty and seductive bodies (even a Reverso World). A papabile hypothesis is that the intent was to accentuate the most feminine traits possible in these figures with a "macho" attitude to create greater contrast; as well as the specific traits of men stand out more through their often skimpy suits and under their stylish caps. However, the charm of the Mondo Reverso women would not have been affected by smaller or at least more realistic breasts: drawing them so prosperous turns out, at the end of the show, rather sexist despite the intent being to somehow unmask sexism.

We forgive the author who, with illustrations that are always kept in sepia tones, faithfully trace the spirit of the time in which they are set, recalling ancient photographs of the end of the 19th century. A simple but effective choice, which gives Mondo Reverso the final touch to be a complete work.

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