Muse by Terry Dodson

“Muse” v1 and v2 by Denis-Pierre Filippi and Terry Dodson

Writer: Denis-Pierre Filippi
Artist: Terry Dodson
Colorist: Rebecca Rendon and Terry Dodson
Translator: Quinn and Katia Donoghue
Published by: Humanoids
Number of Pages: 106 or so total
Original Publication: 2011 – 2012

The following is reprinted from a Pipeline column back on 19 February 2013…

I have made some tweaks/updates/format changes to bring this up to date. Honestly, who looks at something they wrote nearly five years ago without finding a lot they want to tweak?

Format Explanations

“Muse” is a ridiculously beautiful piece of artwork from Terry Dodson, originally printed in French and now translated to English by Humanoids. If you want the print edition, it’ll cost you $35.  That includes both of the volumes in the series under one cover, but it’ll be printed at full size (9.5″ x 12.5″) and in hardcover. I can’t ask for a better format choice than that.

That said, the digital edition is available in the original two volumes, and looks great on my screens.

 

The Story of “Muse”

Coraline says hello at the steampunk mansion

“Muse” is the story of Coraline, a young well-endowed woman. She takes a job as something of a nanny to the terror of a steampunk estate. Her job description is left up to the imagination, but she’s basically there to distract the boy so he doesn’t cause trouble.  She needs to also maybe get him out of his lab where he invents all manner of curious gizmos, from steampunk horses to treehouse builders.

When Coraline starts having bad dreams that feel all too real, a mystery sparks. What happened to the previous nannies? What is this boy’s true story? Why is he so secretive? What are the other helpers in the house holding back from her?

I’m not entirely sure I get it all, even after two reads, but I hardly care. This is an art-centric book, and it succeeds on that front wildly.

 

The Creation of the Book

Coraline talks to the animals

Terry Dodson’s art has never been more impressive. The coloring from Rebecca Rendon and Dodson, himself, does a remarkable job in showing off the art and being attractive in its own right. The style feels painterly without being either too brush stroke-filled or too perfectly Photoshopped.

The color palette is fitting for the book’s time period and setting. It almost feels like a color book printed a hundred years ago, if that makes sense. It has muted colors, well defined shadows, and strongly differentiated foregrounds and backgrounds.

Looking back on it now a second time, I can see even more detail added in by the coloring than I noticed the first time. That’s a good sign that the coloring does its job without getting in the way. It’s not until you purposefully pay attention to it that you start noticing all its intricacies.

The story from Denis-Pierre Filippi is tailor-made for Dodson’s work. It’s centered on an attractive young woman who loses her clothes with nearly alarming frequency. It’s a Good Girl art book, for sure.

Coraline is on a boat. Relaxing in the sun.

Particularly in the dream sections of the book, Coraline has a tendency to find herself in scenarios where clothes are easily ripped, to the point where it becomes a running gag. There is full top-half front nudity in the book, which makes it all the more odd in the panel or two where her hair just happens to land just right to obscure certain anatomical features.

It is more than just that, though. As Americans, we’re not used to seeing that in our comics, so it’ll obviously be the thing that jumps out at us. But the opening scene, alone, is breathtaking in its visuals.

In it, Coraline arrives at the gate in front of the estate, where she’s met by the butler-type character who ushers her to the house via a fancy steampunk car on track tracks. Along the way, we’re treating to lush imagery of a countryside leading up to an old stone castle atop a hill. The mechanical bits that decorated the car with such detail are nothing compared to what’s inside the house.

An opening half page splash pulls the camera way back to show a house filled with gears and swinging arms and pulleys. To me, these pages — and those where the boy drives her over the lake and through the countryside — are as impressive as any of the chance encounters Coraline has in her dreamscape in which she loses her underwear.

Show White and her tired drunken dwarves in "Muse", drawn by Terry Dodson

Filippi writes a very visual story. Coraline’s dreams are a montage of great high concept bits, including pirates, Tarzan, Titanic, natives who want to eat her, fairy tales, and Arabian Nights, amongst others. There’s a lot of great design work spread throughout these pages. While it might not all fit together as seamlessly as you might like as a story, in the end it’s still fun to look at and it keeps you turning the pages to see what might happen next.

 

Straight From Pencils

They shot the art directly off the pencils, which will likely be a bone of contention for some. I liked Salvador Larroca’s artwork best on “X-Treme X-Men.” They, they shot it directly from the pencils with colors by Liquid!  Perhaps I’m in the minority on that, though. I like it this way. It allows for some creative shadow techniques that solid black inks won’t allow, and preserves some of the original energy of the art.

There are a few times when things seem under-rendered and that maybe an inker might have filled that in, but that also seemed to happen most in the second half of the book. Either deadline pressures loomed or my expectations were set so high in the beginning that there was no chance for the rest of the book holding up.

The trick with so-called digital inking is in darkening the pencils just a tad so that the lighter lines don’t disappear, while the bolder lines don’t look like smudged charcoal. Then, you need to pair them up with a colorist whose work doesn’t muddy the lines. The work of Dodson and Rendon highlights the artwork, maintaining a lighter tone, particularly in the second book, which gets very light with its saturation and contrast. While some of the darkening of the pencil lines is inconsistent from page to page, I thought the overall effect worked.

Size Matters

I read an advance copy of the book from a PDF file. At full screen size on my 27″ screen, the pages are the exact same size as what the final printed book will be. I will be lining up to buy the paper edition. I’m sold on this format. You can’t shrink art like this rewown.  That’s criminal. The artist wants you to see it at this size and drew for that size. Let’s show our support for that.

I opened the digital edition of the book on Izneo for comparison purposes and it looks just as good. Actually, it looks better since the preview PDF I had left some word balloons out. (The lettering sat on the page, but they had no word balloons.  For a review PDF, that’s OK. I can work around that.  There is at least one page in the final edition now, though, that’s still missing its balloon. See volume 2, page 5.)

 

Recommended?

For the art, sure.

The story is not the book’s strong suit, though the mystery of it will carry you through. I’m not sure I buy the ending completely. A couple of elements pop at in the second book almost at random just to make the ending feel pre-planned. (Namely, the scene in the local town in the second book felt tacked on at the last minute to introduce the grand finale.) But there’s much to recommend this book, from the strong characters to the visual spectacle. That’s the selling point of the book, though: Dodson’s artwork. On that front, the book delivers.

I hope even half the people who claimed to enjoy Dodson’s artwork when he was drawing X-Men characters will see fit to give this book a try…

 

Buy It Now

You have a variety of options here.  First, you can buy it directly from Humanoids in either print or digital.

You can buy the print edition on Amazon, of course:

Muse drawn by Terry Dodson from Humanoids

Digital: Volume 1

Izneo Logo (updated 12/2017) Buy this book on Comixology

 

Digital: Volume 2

Izneo Logo (updated 12/2017) Buy this book on Comixology

 

Izneo.com Preview (Volume 1):

1 Comment

  • Arcturus December 1, 2017 at 8:55 am

    I remember reading this review back on comicbookresources back a loooong time ago, it was near the time the Marvel princess Leia came out 😀

    Reply

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