Soulless: The Manga: Volume One
by Gail Carriger and RemHow cute are repressed Victorians? Even when some of them are vampires or werewolves, perhaps the antithesis of sweetness, this graphic novel sets out to prove they can melt our hearts with their buttoned-up attitudes, tea drinking, and bygone elegance.
Alexia Tarabotti is a preternatural, which means she's half-way between natural and supernatural. She has the power to suppress the abilities of other supernatural creatures, and she's known as a soul-sucker. She's also a spinster, and at 26 she's starting to feel overlooked. London is brimming with supernatural intrigue, but nobody is asking her for help, even though she's smart and capable of standing up to all manner of monsters. After a spate of disappearances of lone vampires and a strange attack on her own person, Alexia is trying to get to the bottom of things. But she has to contend with the behaviour of Lord Maccon, the head of a supernatural agency. She's infuriated by his hot and cold attitude to her, and the way he leaves her with no idea where she stands with him.
The artwork is mostly in black and white, aside from the first six pages. This makes it look as if the publisher ran out of money before finishing, rather than being a deliberate artistic choice. Nevertheless, it's quite pretty art in a strong manga style. Some panels are exaggerated, with relatively indistinct faces, but they are mixed in with more detailed work. The characters being portrayed are often supernaturally beautiful and youthful, and they tend to hang out in upper-class drawing rooms and ballrooms. There are a few bloodstains, and there's quite a lot of cleavage, but visually it's rather mild and suitable for older teens. The story has some nudity, but the artist has drawn it carefully so that nothing explicit is in evidence.
This graphic novel introduces a world of horror staples in which nothing is more catastrophic than the potential for running out of tea and treacle tart. The monsters are almost a sideshow. It's sweet, funny, and romantic. It's also very undemanding. The main character is plucky, witty, and has a way with hedgehogs, so she's very likeable. This is the kind of story that I think makes a great feelgood tonic for a rainy day.
25th March 2014
Review © Ros Jackson