Grim Tidings: Miss Don’t Touch Me, Vol 2

Posted by on December 22nd, 2010 at 5:45 AM

Rob reviews the second volume of Miss Don’t Touch Me, written by Hubert and drawn by the art team of Kerascoet (NBM).

The first volume of Miss Don’t Touch Me was part murder-mystery, part “erotic thriller”, part workplace procedural and part fish-out-of-water story.  The more lurid and violent aspects of the story surrounding Blanche, an innocent maid who winds up as a dominatrix in a brothel after her sister is murdered, are balanced by the playfully grotesque bigfoot stylings of the husband & wife art team Kerascoet.  While the story has a resolution, one that absolves Blanche of guilt as an elaborate conspiracy is revealed, it doesn’t exactly have a happy ending.  The fact that this is a brothel, an institution devoted to systematic exploitation of its workers for the sake of the upper class, is never forgotten.  When Blanche realizes this is the only home she has left, she accepts her fate but not happily.

The story picks up with Blanche realizing that she can’t leave the brothel and that in fact the system is rigged to keep her in debt.  That feeling is ameliorated when she meets a new customer who winds up charming her into falling in love with him.  She also reconnects with her long-lost mother and sets her up in an apartment.  Of course, both her intended (Antoine) and her mother have ulterior motives that wind up bringing disaster to all involved.  The tone of this volume is different in many respects than the first.  Blanche is a far more passive character this time around, in part because she’s seduced by good fortune.  When presented with a litany of troubles in the first book, her response was that of a wild animal trapped in a corner.  Her frenzied viciousness not only wound up saving her life on several occasions, it established her career as a dominatrix.

Antoine was the one man she could fall for, because he was the one man who didn’t try to touch her or do anything inappropriate with her at all.  Indeed, he proudly took her out in public, he bought her clothes and generally spent lavish amounts of money on her.  We quickly learn that this is all a show for his mother’s “benefit”, one designed to enrage her for reasons that become easy to decode early in the book.  Of course, as hardened as Blanche has become by certain of her experiences, this volume reveals how simple and naive she is, not seeing that her fiance’ has no interest in her as a lover.  She’s desperate for love and is willing to do anything to believe she’s getting it–from both Antoine and her mother.

The character design by Kerascoet was once again both delightful and sleazy.  Blanche’s mother starts off as looking haggard from years of labor, until it becomes clear that it’s due to years of dissipation.  Her level is drawn as a sort of charming dirtbag.  Antoine is appropriately handsome in a faintly feminine manner.  Blanche’s rival Holly is all reds and scowls.  Kerascoet also creates tons of atmosphere, evoking a Paris that one can almost taste and smell–even if that experience isn’t entirely pleasant.

There was an undercurrent of moralizing in the first volume of this series, as Hubert condemns the brothel more from a class standpoint than a gender standpoint.  In this volume, Blanche is punished because of her unwillingness to accept Antoine for who he really is, even going along with the barbaric “brain operation” he receives that lobotomizes him in hopes of a “cure” for his “condition”.  In a sense, Hubert punishes her for her selfishness and inability to see beyond her own needs and desires.  She’s swindled by her mother and has to beat up her mother’s lover to get out of his clutches.  Only her faithful friend, the transsexual Miss Jo, is there for her in the end–and even Miss Jo has felt the sting of betrayal this time around as well.

Blanche is a reactive character, a young woman who has been exploited and abandoned her whole life, yet has the spark to fight back.  If the first volume established that spark, this volume saw her regression back to a more childlike state.  That’s childlike in the sense that she became more innocent and trusting, but also childlike in the sense that she became more selfish and impulsive.  If there’s another volume in this series, I’ll be curious to see if Blanche becomes more proactive if she will continue to be undone by her own darker side.  This series isn’t what I would call “Comics Lit” (as is labeled by NBM), but rather compelling, occasionally whimsical and frequently disquieting soap opera.

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2 Responses to “Grim Tidings: Miss Don’t Touch Me, Vol 2”

  1. alixopulos says:

    Thanks for reviewing this, I was curious what volume two was like. I saw an untranslated European preview copy of vol.1 at San Diego and ordered the new translation sight unseen. Unfortunately, much of the beauty and charm of Kerascoet’s art is lost in the NBM edition, which has shrunk it down to something close to the size of a tv guide. Despite the size, and a stuttering, uneven dénouement, it was still a worthwhile read.

  2. Rob Clough says:

    Yeah, the NBM digest-size sucks, but it’s better than nothing. And they apparently can sell the digests in a way they can’t sell the regular album sizes. (They did the Trondheim “Little Santa” in album size and stopped after two volumes.)

    The endings of both volumes were indeed odd…punishing the main character in an almost moralistic fashion.