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The Museum Vaults: Excerpts from the Journal of an Expert    by Marc-Antoine Mathieu order for
Museum Vaults
by Marc-Antoine Mathieu
Order:  USA  Can
Nantier Beall Minoustchine, 2008 (2008)
* * *   Reviewed by Lance Victor Eaton

This second volume in NBM's Louvre series meets the standards set by its predecessor, The Glacial Period. The idea with this series has been to give artists access to the Louvre in order to create stories centered on the famous museum and thus far, they have been come up with interesting premises. In The Museum Vaults: Excerpts from the Journal of an Expert, Paris and its splendor have long fallen out of favor to the point that no one even remembers the original name of the museum, resorting to calling it the Musee Du Revolu.

While the museum still carries its majestic structure, people have lost track of its possessions and thus Eudeus Volumer is hired to take part in the extensive cataloguing process of all the museum's innards. This will require Volumer and his assistant to go far and deep into the museum's vaults to get a full record. As days pass into weeks and into years, it becomes evident that the vaults may be bottomless; especially when Volumer encounters a dying man who was the previous cataloguer. Despite this, Volumer is determined to continue with his work.

Now, that simple plot can sound anything but compelling, and yet, Mathieu brings his characters (and thus the reader) through many interesting quadrants of the museum's collection. Indeed, in this neverending descent, Volumer and his assistant meet a variety of curators and caretakers who provide different commentary on art (and its numerous forms). Ideas about perspective, style, legitimacy, and preservation abound throughout these discussions in a manner which the lay reader can easily comprehend. At its core, the book discusses the question of art but does so like a magician, distracting the audience by adding flashy moves and gestures.

Layered on the discussion, Mathieu also plays with his own artistic display using different methods within the graphic novel to break out of the proverbial box. Of course, Mathieu has a cunning sense of humor, injecting into his graphic novel discussions about the legitimacy of comic art that fit perfectly well with the ongoing storyline. Also, he includes discussions and depictions of both the famous and lesser-known works within the Louvre.

Both the first and second book in this series have set a high standard that NBM will have to meet in future editions. Mathieu proves amazingly capable of rendering complex ideas and visuals into a narrative that most people will enjoy.

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