Ayak + Por is a remarkable collaboration between veteran writer Marc Légendre and up-and-coming artist Wilbert van der Steen, whose exceptional linework just drips with an atmosphere reminiscent of The Arabian Nights.
Without much fanfare, STRIP2000 has dropped Ayak + Por onto the market. It’s a remarkable move, as STRIP2000 is a Dutch publishing outfit focusing primarily on humorous comics and reprints of funny books like Timo, The Godfrrrsaken Island and Victor and Vishnu, among others.
Ayak + Por marks a change in direction for STRIP2000 – and a very promising one.
Ayak + Por contains three stories, with The Worn-Out Teapot headlining the album as a recurring feature. In the story, a Inuit-looking girl, Ayak, receives a one-eyed winged dog named Por from a friend who happens to be a professor in the biological sciences. Hilarity ensues as Ayak comes across a magical lamp in an abandoned cabin, with writer Légendre spinning a nice little twist on the Aladdin fairy tale.
The Old Painter then almost seems like an afterthought, something the creators had to get out of their system, although it is actually a nice parable of not always getting what you thought you wanted.
An aging and successful artist realises that he has painted everything on this world that there is to paint, except for the sea. However, his overbearing confidence fails him in the face of an ever-moving endless entity such as the oceans of the world. How will he overcome this adversity?
Peter and the Wolf is the final tale, co-scripted by the artist. It is a version of Prokovjev’s fairy tale, nothing more nothing less, but it is always an enjoyable tale and, as with the rest of the stories, it is beautifully illustrated by van der Steen. His design for the wolf especially stands out.
All of these nice parables are rendered by debutante van der Steen in stunning and detailed pencil work. The colouring is handled monochromatically, with each panel standing out with a particular colour (which turns out to be less hectic than it sounds).
With a few strokes van der Steen manages to create a fully realised world whose characters come across as completely believable. There’s a touch of nostalgia in the way he draws the characters – a realistic streak tempered with cartoony elements. His backgrounds are detailed and moody and enhance the intimate feeling his pencil work evokes. This is top-level illustration work reminiscent of children’s books.
As you can tell, Ayak + Por by Marc Légendre and Wilbert van der Steen provides parables for a modern age with a graceful poetic touch. You’ll have to take in the full package of art and story to appreciate fully the album, and there’s something to like for young and old.
Looking at the pages, it feels like you’re perpetually in a lounge chair with twilight intruding upon the day. Definitely worth a look, and a great start for STRIP2000’s first steps into different genres to enrich their catalogue.
Ayak + Por Vol.1 by Wilbert van der Steen & Marc Légendre is published in Dutch by STRIP2000. It is a full-colour graphic novel counting 48 pages and retailing for €8.95.