Written by Hubert
Art by Kerascoet
96 pages, color
Published by NBM
One of the nice things about NBM’s program of translating foreign comics into English is that often they will combine two 48-page albums into one 96-page volume. That’s definitely to the advantage of Miss Don’t Touch Me, because it means that you get the entire story in one fell swoop instead of having to track down two separate books. In the case of Miss Don’t Touch Me, the second half is just different enough from the first that it’s an interesting experience having the two combined into one omnibus.
Blanche and Agatha are sisters, working as maids in exchange for room and board in 1930s Paris. When fun-loving Agatha is off living it up on the town, though, Blanche witnesses a murder. Even worse, an attempt to silence Blanche backfires and kills Agatha instead, leaving Blanche with a thirst for revenge on the mysterious figure known as the "Butcher of the Dances" who kills young innocent women. When she goes undercover at a high-end brothel, though, it’s the introduction to a completely different level of society for poor innocent Blanche.
Miss Don’t Touch Me is a strange book, there’s no doubt about that. The first half of the book is a mixture of mystery (who’s killing the women of Paris?) and fish-out-of-water (virginal Blanche works in a brothel as a dominatrix), and while the two come close to fitting together perfectly, there’s always a slight gap between the two. Maybe it’s because Blanche’s investigations never seem quite satisfactory; she’s certainly trying but not really succeeding. When the second half of the book comes around, Hubert clearly has had second thoughts about Blanche as well, moving a minor character into a co-starring role and being the one person who seems to really figure out everything that’s going on. Blanche is almost more of a pawn in the second half of Miss Don’t Touch Me, her effectiveness being lessened with each page. This is where NBM’s omnibus format really comes in handy, though; by presenting the entire story as one book, the shift doesn’t seem as strange or abrupt as it certainly would have in two volumes, and there’s no worry of people buying a second book only to discover the protagonist from the first book isn’t in it as much as they’d have suspected.
I do quite like Kerascoet’s art; I first encountered it in Dungeon Twilight from NBM, but in many ways I think I like parts of Miss Don’t Touch Me‘s art even more. Blanche in her flapper outfit is absolutely adorable, with her big hat and short bob. Kerascoet uses a sparse number of lines to draw the characters, here, and they fit the time period that they’re supposed to be portraying, perfectly. I also have to give Kerascoet for being able to bring out so much of the characters in Miss Don’t Touch Me by their visual appearances; from Annette’s meek and innocent face to the scheming Holly’s baleful glares and looks that she she shoots at Blanche. A lot of the supporting cast at the brothel don’t get much attention in the foreground, but Kerascoet makes each of them look distinct and unmistakable.
Miss Don’t Touch Me is a bit of an oddity when it’s all said and done, between its shifting protagonists, two different styles, and a thoroughly bleak ending. I’m glad I read it, but I can’t help but wonder how others will feel about it when they finish its pages. I suspect most readers, like myself, will end up feeling a little perplexed when it’s all said and done. If that’s what Hubert and Kerascoet were going for, then I applaud them mightily. It’s definitely not a book I’ll forget easily.
Purchase Link: Amazon.com