Lots of webcomics start out online and, if they’re lucky, eventually make their way to print, but Boum’s A Small Revolution does just the opposite. Originally published in French, as La Petite Révolution, in Montreal, this has already won some accolades (which, incidentally, makes my job kind of easy). Now, all us lowly English-only speakers with an Internet connection can finally read it for ourselves. Boum’s comic takes place in an unnamed country ruled by a dictator and follows Florence, a light-fingered, brusque street kid with a terrible smoking habit, who spends her time dodging the police, arguing with her friend Auguste, or listening to her favorite record—a pacifist anthem—at the antique store.
It’s not a great existence, of course, but Florence is angrier about the fate of other orphans living on the streets. She can—and does—fight back, but she knows others, like Auguste, aren’t so lucky, and she takes it upon herself to take care of whomever she can. That’s why when Auguste’s handsome older brother, Dominique, comes around spouting stirring words of revolution, Florence is eager to get on board with the resistance.
After some rousing speeches, Florence is convinced: she’s going to join the revolution, help overthrow the dictatorial government, and make their city safe for children again. Auguste argues with her, insisting that revolution is a fruitless march toward death, but Florence is resolute. Soon, though, she learns the true cost of war. It’s not all glory—maybe even no glory to speak of at all—and the very first casualty she sees is the antique store smashed to pieces, including her prized record, which she carries with her as a kind of relic. And in the hustle and bustle of the ensuing conflict, she loses even more.
Boum’s intricate black-and-white art, rendered in delicate, deliberate linework, is a compelling muddle of details. Occasionally Florence and the other revolutionaries appear decked in eighteenth-century-style garb, while the presence of armored tanks set it solidly in the twentieth century. The ambiguity of time and place suggests that Florence can be any beleaguered orphan under any totalitarian regime on the cusp of an uprising.
But as universal as this revolution might be, Florence is still just one girl with a decision to make, and after the tragedy she’s already experienced, it might not be the most prudent. At this point in the story, Florence is on the verge of something major, but it’s still unclear what that might be. Boum updates her comic twice a week, on tuesdays and thursdays, so all should be revealed in relatively quick order. But impatient French-speaking readers eager to learn Florence’s fate can purchase the original book on Boum’s website.