Je suis leur silence | Of family secrets and hallucinations
Je suis leur silence | Of family secrets and hallucinations

Je suis leur silence | Of family secrets and hallucinations

Posted on 24 February, 2024





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112 pages


“In your opinion, who could kill Zeus?”
[…] “Zeus represents the superior power. No one could.”

Eva Rojas to Doctor Llull

This is the dilemma that opens Je suis leur silence Un polar à Barcelone. A question that seems hypothetical, but whose answer is the key to solving a murder. Because when a man as arrogant and untouchable as a god dies leaving a fortune behind, what mortal could ever be behind his demise?

Jordi Lafebre’s second graphic novel was first published in 2023 by Édition Dargaud, and then in Italian by Bao Publishing. It holds all the ingredients of a crime novel plus some unconventional elements, including its protagonist, far from a directional policeman like Lieutenant Columbo, nor a perfectionist investigator like Sherlock Holmes. Instead, she is a psychiatrist with her share of skeletons in (and outside) the closet. An atypical protagonist for an atypical story, as much about crime as it is about the intricacies of family relations.

Je suis leur silence
Image courtesy of Bao Publishing © 2023

Je suis leur silence is a flashback of a noir

Eva Rojas is a psychiatrist with unorthodox methods and a penchant for trouble. A young woman who, in the span of a week, goes from being disbarred to suspected of homicide. Called to emotionally support her former patient Penelope, she ends caught up in the business of the wealthy Monturos. The family of winemakers – who became rich distilling Cava – had reunited for the reading of the matriarch’s will. A moment of celebration that turns to tragedy with the discovery of the lifeless body of the main heir, Francesc. That is when Eva realises that she will need to uncover all of the family’s secrets to prove her own innocence.

Image courtesy of Bao Publishing © 2023

Like its predecessor Malgre Tout, Je suis leur Silence abandons chronological order in favor of starting from the epilogue. A structure is also present in the comic The Death of Doctor Strange, which begins with the literal end of its protagonist. In this case, Eva herself narrates the story to Doctor Llull, whom has to evaluate her. The reader is thus led back-and-forth between past and present through flashbacks as she recalls her week. Such a rhythm could be disruptive, but its careful balance makes it an element of enrichment instead. It allows the reader to keep up with the events while also being able to glance inside Eva’s mind.

A tale of two families

Je suis leur silence focuses on two distinct families. The first is the Monturos, around whom the mystery revolves. From the demure Penelope to the proud Francesc, the family spectrum is laid bare through these two extremes. On one hand there is the younger generation, struggling under the weight of expectations, and on the other the older, refusing to give up any power. Eva immediately associates the Monturos with the Olympians, who look down on mortals from the height of their privilege. A golden exterior that hides infidelity, corruption and generational trauma – but most of all humanity.

Je suis leur silence
Image courtesy of Bao Publishing © 2023

The second is Eva’s family, which includes yet another set of generations. They are embodied by three women: Eva’s gypsy great aunt Dolores and her two grandmothers. All of them are dead, yet still very present in her life as hallucinations. Like a Greek chorus, they accompany the protagonist everywhere offering witty remarks and advice that only she can hear, but not always follows. Two opposite families whose complex human bonds unravel with each page, and that represent the core of this emotional tale. Like Captain Fantastic – a movie featuring an unconventional family and the bonds they cultivate away from society – Je suis leur silence shows to which extent family stories can resonate.

The subject of mental health in Je suis leur silence

The second main theme of Je suis leur silence is the topic of mental illness. Its main representations are Eva’s hallucinations, but it is also hinted through other subtle details, like the pill that she carries in her pocket, her unruly lifestyle and brazen attitude. An eccentric behavior that hides emotional fragility rooted in loss. And that, like any copying mechanism, can become dangerous when brought to the extreme. Such as when it puts Eva in life-threatening situations, or when it keeps her from sleeping for a week.

Je suis leur silence
Image courtesy of Bao Publishing © 2023

As for the visions, while they often serve to break the tension, their role is far from mere comedic relief. Because when their voices start to drown the outside world, there surfaces the more realistic aspect of mental illness: its impact on everyday life. Much like Moon Knight‘s protagonist, events outside of her control will force Eva to face her trauma. And just like Marc Spector with his multiple personalities, she will need to come to terms with her condition and learn to ask for help.

Lafebre’s art style is a breath of fresh air

The element that helps to convey this emotional journey to the fullest is Lafebre’s art style. Usually, the portrayal of mental health issues is often connected to a darker imaginary. That is the case for the video game Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, where the protagonist’s psychosis and the voices she hears are designed to overwhelm the player. An oppressive atmosphere similar to the one of Goya‘s paintings, which also found inspiration in asylum inhabitants.

Je suis leur silence
Image courtesy of Bao Publishing © 2023

However, Lafebre takes a different direction with Je suis leur Silence. He translates these delicate topics with an art style that is as sunny and vibrant as the city of Barcelona. The line art is light and expressive, building a rhythm that guides the reader from page to page. The colour palette is soft and warm – an unconventional choice for a thriller, but just as effective. Last but not least, his ability to create believable characters is the key that makes their stories feel all the more authentic and impactful. A combination of elements that contribute to shape a unique emotional noir.


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