by Gilson & Clarke
Melusine desperately wants to become a witch and tries very, very hard to practise as much as possible. But things don’t always go right for her. For a start she’s having to fit the witchcraft in when she can since she’s busy working at a big old castle as some sort of domestic help. And the castle’s hardly the most normal of places to be living: The master and mistress are a vampire and a ghost, the manservant looks like Frankenstein’s monster and there’s a werewolf running around with a soft spot for Melusine. It’s a great cast of weird and wonderful characters with lots of potential for silliness and fun. Which pretty much sums up Melusine quite nicely – it’s a fun book, with a modern cartooning style – with all the clear line stylings of Tintin (and maybe a little Calvin & Hobbes style as well?).
It’s perhaps unfortunate that Cinebook have decided to start the Melusine reprints here, because we rather jump into the story, without explanation or reasons for Melusine being who, what or where she is. This might be because this volume is actually #7 in the original Belgian series and no doubt reading from the start would have helped make the whole thing clearer. It’s by no means crucial to read it in order, as the strips within each volume are self contained gag strips over 2 or 3 pages at a time. But perhaps a catch up page or some form of introduction would have helped with this first Cinebook volume.
Here in Hocus Pocus Melusine spends a little time around the castle, generally messing up spells and potions before being visited by her cousin Melisande; the black sheep of this family of witches and a constant embarrassment to Melusine;
(Melusine isn’t looking forward to her cousin’s arrival – Fairy Godmother’s are too pink, too fluffy and just not witchy enough for our young witch girl in training.)
It’s Melusine and Melisande’s relationship and the chaotic effect the fairy godmother has on the castle that takes up most of Hocus Pocus, with Melusine continually despairing at her cousin’s antics – the redecorating of Madam’s rooms doesn’t go well and when Melisande gets bitten by the castle vampire things turn a little dark – who knew that fairy godmothers can turn nasty?
(Not quite the tidying that the mistress of the house had in mind – but what do you expect from a fairy godmother?)
When it works, like the panels above, Melusine is a really great bit of all ages fun. And most of the time, it does work very well. Of course, the way to read Melusine is probably a few pages at a time, with each strip allowed to step up and get a laugh on it’s own merits rather than suffering slightly from familiarity.
The really great moments come when the gags veer away from simply comparing the two lead characters and get a little more inventive. My favourite moment was a two pager quite unlike any of the other strips in Melusine, a brilliant bit of visual comedy with a great gag payoff that I’m going to ruin by reprinting here in full:
(Now wasn’t that a great way to end? My favourite bit of Melusine – I love the unusual visual trickery of flying with the contestants and the payoff that comes with the banner in that final panel. From Melusine Hocus Pocus.)