Green Manor: very English fun loving criminals

Published On August 31, 2009 | By Richard Bruton | Reviews

Green Manor Volume 1: Assassins & Gentlemen, Volume 2: The Inconvenience Of Being Dead

by Fabien Vehlmann and Denis Bodart

Cinebooks

Green Manor Part 1- Assassins and Gentlemen_l GM2- The Inconvenience of Being Dead_l

I read both Cinebook volumes of Green Manor in a couple of sittings.  And in many ways, I wish I’d only had Volume 1 to read, because then I’d be writing a glowing little review about how good the book was instead of having to write about how a limited idea can suffer greatly from over-exposure. But never mind, on we go.

The concept of Green Manor is simple; a deft framing device has a madman spinning tales of his time as a domestic at Green Manor; a very select and distinguished English gentlemen’s club in Queen Victoria’s England. Every tale focuses on a different member of Green Manor and the many dastardly and downright murderous events that they take part in. The enjoyment of Green Manor comes from the clever, interesting and very often ridiculously funny ways these murderous tales are told.

Green Manor1

(And so it goes… That’s the basic setup for every single Green Manor tale; some gentleman or other puts forward an idea, spins a story or comes up with a proposition. It works surprisingly well – up to a point.)

Take the very first little tale: Doctor Byron is on his last legs and has proposed a simple discussion for the members of the club; “Do you believe that there can be a murder without a victim and without a murderer?”. Each of the pompous club members then takes it upon themselves to beat the next in retelling some story or other to try and prove the old man’s contention. He sits and listens to it all before admitting to the assembled toffs:

Green Manor2

“There exists, however a case of a murder without murderer or victim… do you know the Venenum Atterminatum Attemperatum?”
“The poison of the Borgias..”
“Which was sure to kill and on a date chosen by the poisoner, sometimes years after its ingestion.”
“There was no known antidote.”
“The recipe for this poison is completely lost”
“It is not lost for everybody. Because I poured  some of this poison into your glasses last week.”
“!!?” “??!”

The perfect crime. No murderer or victim. Yet.

And that rather sets the tone for the series. A tale is told in the plush surroundings of the Green Manor, of assassination, murder, poisoning, intrigue, blackmail, treachery and other such very un-gentlemanly matters. And along the way, Vehlmann and Bodart take great delight in lampooning the highly developed morals and class structures of the Victorian era.

Certainly over the course of Volume 1, with just 6 tales, each one is sufficiently original and entertaining to make the whole volume a worthy read. It’s unfortunate that Volume 2, the longer of the pair, containing as it does volume 2 and volume 3 of the original series, some 10 tales in all, rather loses the originality and much of the interest that I had on reading Volume 1. Perhaps if I’d read them a year apart I may have developed a different opinion, but as a single read, the second volume is far inferior to the first, purely through familiarity with the concept that verges on boredom by the end.

And that’s a shame because I really did enjoy Volume 1, relishing every new twist and turn of the plot, every delightfully perverse way the rogues of Green Manor would turn their murderous eyes onto some new crime. The art throughout the volumes is perfect for the tone of the book. Bodart’s style is very simple, not overly cartoonish, but still stylised enough to convey some of the over the top expressions and emotions needed in a book so full of evil deeds and gentlemanly rogues. There are many scenes within where I’m reminded of the great Steve Parkhouse, but I’m sure there will be many more European artists to compare Bodarts’s style with (and I’ll leave that for those of you with a better knowledge of Euro art than I).

So Green Manor Volume 1 is a quite brilliantly distracting read. In turns original, inventive and funny with a continually challenging set of stories that are accompanied by some particularly nice cartooning. It’s a shame Volume 2 is merely repeating the work of Volume 1 and the law of diminishing returns makes this a completely un-necessary read. So buy Volume 1 by all means, but avoid Volume 2. Everything you need to read is there, as the cads and bounders of The Green Manor club welcome you in for a night of very aristocratic wrong-doing.

Richard Bruton.

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About The Author

Richard Bruton
- Started in comics retail aged 16 at Nostalgia & Comics, Birmingham. Now located in Yorkshire, he's written for the Forbidden Planet International Blog since 2007. Specialising in UK Comics and All-Ages comics, Richard's day job in a primary school allowed him to build the best children's graphic novel library in the country.

5 Responses to Green Manor: very English fun loving criminals

  1. Comicology says:

    No wonder, it’s one of the wittiest comic I have read in recent times. Thanks to Cinebook for pacaking all 3 issues in 2 volumes.

    My review about the 1st volume is right here.

    http://www.comicology.in/2009/01/cinebook-green-manor-2008.html

  2. I couldn’t disagree more with you about not needing to read volume two Richard, both books are superb and if your major criticism is that its more of the same then you could level that fault at nearly all continuing comic books out there.

    I read each little five/six page story on separate days and had a good five months between reading book one and two so maybe that gives me a different view of the work but try and think of how the work was originally shown. Imagine if we had a comic which was giving us the quality that is in the Green Manor in a weekly episode, I’m sure most people would lap up all of the stories.

    I’d liked to have seen the second volume split into two smaller editions myself and I’d also wish they where making some more. The art is wonderful and the stories very imaginative. Top marks from me and I’d reckon that if you bought the first book and enjoyed it as much as Richard did it would be pretty difficult for you not to pick up the second volume.

  3. Reuben says:

    I loved Green Manor, but wish it had been collected into one volume.

    The idea reminded me of a wonderful BBC Radio 4 series called Tales From The Mausoleum Club (regularly repeated on BBC7)
    http://www.radiolistings.co.uk/programmes/tales_from_the_mausoleum_club.html

  4. Dave Shelton says:

    I’m with Graeme. I agree with you, Richard, that the law of diminishing returns applies to some degree and I found volume 2 fractionally less wonderful than volume 1, but truly only fractionally. It’s all still fabulous stuff, and utterly gorgeous, and I too wish there were further volumes to come.

  5. Christian Louboutin Boots says:

    I’m with Graeme. I agree with you, Richard, that the law of diminishing returns applies to some degree and