melusine v1 halloween cover detail

Melusine v1: “Halloween”

Writer: François Gilson
Artist: Clarke
Colorist: Cerise
Lettering: Imadjinn sarl
Translator: Erica Jeffrey
Published by: Dupuis/Cinebook
Number of Pages: 58
Original Publication: 2000

 

Let’s Get the Bad News Out of the Way First

melusine at halloween

This is not a terribly strong start for “Melusine.” The biggest obstacle in its path is that it’s the eighth book in the series that Cinebook published first. There’s no set-up in this book at all. I read the entire book and I still have no idea of the relationships between the characters, where they are, or what they’re doing.

There are some context clues. One of the witches/fairies is Melusine’s cousin, for example. But where are they? It’s a witching school of some sort, and Melusine is the star pupil, I think? Or a teacher? Both?

I’m all for dropping you right in and getting straight to the jokes and not bogging down the reader with a tedious origin story, but it gets in the way with this book.  There’s not enough context. There’s too much confusion for me.

By the end of the book, I have a general idea of some of the relationships, but still not all. You can simplify the characters down to their archetypes — the incompetent fairy, the ditzy witch, the smart witch, the uptight headmaster, etc. — and that’ll get you through most of it. But it shouldn’t be that way.

There is one solution.  Read the solicitation copy:

Melusine is a sorcerer’s apprentice, funny and dynamic, who does everything possible to become a powerful witch. Unfortunately, she’s not always successful, and very often her tricks turn against her and her circle. Pumpkins, all sorts of monsters, a haunted castle, a charming prince—everything is there for the greatest pleasure of the readers. Girls or boys, nobody will be bored with Melusine! In this first volume, the charming little witch is working as a nanny in a castle in Transylvania. The lady of the house is a very bad-tempered phantom, her husband is quite a cool vampire, and the footman is a sort of Frankenstein with an exceptionally limited intellect. In short, nothing out of the ordinary…

After reading that, I can see parts of it in the book.  It clears up some of my confusion. But that stuff should be in the book, itself.  It probably is, if you’ve read the first seven volumes already.

There are many more books in the series, including three more that have been translated so far into English. I’m hoping things pick up, or that an increased familiarity with the characters will lead to a better understanding and sharper humor.

I’m also not holding my breath. It’s been four years since Cinebook last published a volume.  I’m guessing the early sales numbers were not good enough.

 

Out of Order

This might get a little confusing. I warned you.

I did a little digging. Part of this is digital’s fault.  Let me explain:

This volume (volume 1 on Izneo and Comixology) is actually the eighth in the original French series.

The next book from Cinebook (volume 2 on Izneo and Comixology) is the seventh. It introduces Melusine’s fairy cousin, Melisande, properly.  If the two books published in the opposite order, that would have simplified a couple of things.

But they were!  I’m really confused by this part, but the first two books (reprinting volumes 7 and 8) were printed in the correct order in print by Cinebook. In digital on the two major sites, they’re labeled in reverse order.

Is Melusine v2 "Hocus Pocus" or "Halloween"? Izneo doesn't know.

This book is correctly labeled “Hocus Pocus” on the cover image, but “Halloween” everywhere else on the page, including the URL.

Even more confusingly, if you look at the URL for this book, it references the second digital volume.  The URL ends “melusine-english-version-5515/hocus-pocus-4424“. “Hocus Pocus” is the second digital book, but the first in print, and the seventh in French.

The titles on the description pages on both Izneo are off, as well.

So Cinebook did the right thing with the print editions and I don’t know where the confusion happened with digital.

After that, print and digital track properly:

The third volume in the English language edition was the second volume of the original French series.

The fourth volume is actually the fifth, and the fifth looks like it’s volume 10.

Anyway, let’s go back to the contents of the book, shall we?

 

What About the Jokes?

Putting that all aside, the jokes are a mix of decent gags and real head-scratchers.  There are pages where the punchline lands and I’m scouring the rest of the page looking for the set-up for it to make sense.  Is this a problem with the translation losing some jokes?  Is François Gilson sense of humor just twisted in the opposite direction from mine?

The jokes revolve around Cancrelune’s inability to make a good potion or fly a broom. Melisande is a flighty fairy. Melusine is always coming up with clever ways to prove a point, or just being the sane one in a cast filled with crazy characters. She also has stronger powers than most others, so she can make crazier things happen to one-up anyone else.

But, in the end, I just didn’t laugh enough for all of the above reasons.  There’s enough going on with the characters that I find them interesting and amusing, but those moments of being baffled blunt it too much.  I hope those feeling will go away as I read more volumes, because I do plan on that.

 

The Art of Melusine

Melusine adds to her stew

I like Clarke’s visual style.  The book has its own look that isn’t a clone of Franquin, but still feels slightly inspired by it. There are pages that go off on different storytelling styles that vary things up nicely and show that the creative team isn’t locked into just one kind of joke telling.

The coloring also stands out. It looks pre-digital in some way. It feels and looks older than the book is. The colors aren’t quite as glossy and bold as you might expect. Things are relatively flat, but there are plenty of background gradients, which might remind you of the early days of digital coloring when that was a popular tool to use.

When I first encountered the book, thought the book had come up in the 70s. Nope, this volume first saw print in 2000.  Looking ahead at future volumes, I can see where it gets brighter and sleeker, but for now I’ll appreciate this style.

 

The Lettering

Melusine lettering is jammed together

Look at “EVERYBODY”, in particular, and see how jammed together those letters are. They almost overlap.

This one has to be a translation issue, where French sentences take up less space than their English translations. This book has some of the most eye-crossing lettering I’ve ever seen in a comic. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the font, but it’s used wrong.  Things get squished together a lot of the time. There is zero space between the letters. The original lettering must have been very tight to the balloons. By the time things move to English, there’s not enough room for the letters.

Melusine lettering is way off center

Here you can see something that happens frequently in the book, as well. When the balloon breaks out of the border, the lettering floats to the top at all costs. That leaves a lot of unnecessary blank space in the lower part of the balloon.

 

The Future of Melusine

Melusine v25 cover by Clarke L'Annee du Dragon

The series is up to its 25th (!) volume in French, which was published earlier this year.  Clarke has taken over the writing now, too. It also looks like the book has turned into an adventure series.  The gag-a-page format is gone.

The art also looks more open and cartoony.  Clarke isn’t cramming as many panels onto a page anymore.  The book breathes a bit to tell the adventure.  I’d be very curious to read how the series works in this format.

If Cinebook isn’t interested in translating it anymore, maybe someone else will pick up the baton…

 

Recommended?

Melusine: Halloween Cover, which is allegedly volume 1, not v2 or v8

Yes?  Sorta. Maybe just not this volume.  This is not the place to start, though it’s tempting to start here since it’s Halloween-themed at this time of year.

I’ve read about half of the second volume in Cinebook’s series so far.  I’d suggest starting there instead.  I think it’s a better introduction, even without the direct ties into Halloween that this first book has.

(This is Pipeline BD 100 review #83.)

 

Buy It Now

Being a Cinebook publication, it’s available in both print and digital form through Amazon.

Buy this book on Amazon Buy this book on Izneo Buy this book on Comixology

Izneo.com Preview

 

1 Comment

  • Happy Halloween 2017 - Pipeline Comics October 31, 2017 at 9:09 pm

    […] been reading more “Melusine” volumes since my review of the first. I was hard on that first volume, mostly because I couldn’t tell what was going on. There […]

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