Asphalt Blues is an adult graphic novel by Jaouen Salaün, which explores the theme of choice; specifically, the choices we make about our romantic relationships: when, how or why to end them; why do we stay in them?
The blurb on the back:
When star-crossed lovers who shared a youthful romance are catapulted into bleak and separate futures, they begin to question the meaning of their lives and whether they are more intertwined than they realize.
2032. It’s been thirteen years since Nina and Mick split up. Both have since rebuilt their lives, but at what cost? Nina lives with a powerful man who is jealous of her attraction to others, while Mick’s wife suffers from severe depression. The two former lovers don’t know it, but their daily lives remain intertwined—each moment intersecting with another, culminating in a deeply poetic and sensual exploration of the disenchantment of love.
The artwork here is so consistently beautiful, whether we’re in a high speed car chase, underwater in a pool, conducting a business meeting, or traveling on a train.
Set in the near future, there is a subtle sci-fi feel to things (not quite Bladerunner levels, but this is definitely not set in the present) which means we get a glimpse of unfamiliar technologies. In this story, combustion engine powered cars are illegal, for example, have been replaced by electric vehicles.
All the vehicles, incidentally, are immaculately drawn. You can tell that Salaün just loves cars. Here, drivers can change the external colours of their cars at the push of a button (or by a simple voice command) and driverless vehicles are commonplace. They all look amazing.
I have to say that I found the images more engaging than some parts of the story; the political subplot, for example, looked gorgeous, but I was unmoved by it. In contrast, the depression experienced by one of the characters is depicted in an emotive and sensitive manner which really touches the reader.
In summary, a gorgeously illustrated book that explores love and the choices we make around it.
Here’s a beautifully atmospheric trailer for the book: