Friday, 23 March 2012

Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child #1 review

New Orleans. Post-Hurricane Katrina. Grad student Dominique Laveau finds her pals disemboweled, escapes death by werewolf when snakes spring from her brow, then falls into the grave of legendary voodoo queen and namesake Marie Laveau. She has visions of the massacre of the latest of Marie's successors and her court, and is attacked by a gunfighter type tossing arrowheads. She escapes, only to find her aunt dying in a pool of blood, and herself attacked once more by the guy from her vision.

It's fair to say that this latest Vertigo title is embracing the grandest of Guignol. It's blood and guts and gore and effing and blinding. The pages that don't feature supernatural horrors contain a gun battle between Dominique's cop boyfriend Allan and local gangbangers. I found the whole thing rather exhausting, but in a tiresome, rather than exhilarating, way.

Not helping is the narration from writer Selwyn Seyfu Hinds that reaches for the musical, aims for significance, but in fact recalls the poetry of teenage Sandman fans. The script's not all bad - the characters', and narrator's, 'N'Orleans' accent rings true, and Hinds obviously has his story worked through - as well as Dominique and Allan, we meet local fixer Chancellor Malenfant, who uses voodoo to maintain his power base. And I'm intrigued by the idea of setting folklore against the backdrop of post-Katrina New Orleans - that's what persuaded me to try this comic, along with the presence of the excellent artist Denys Cowan, in the first place.

But a story so magic-centred should have a bit of charm; this is just brutal, in-yer-face stuff, and there's an uncomfortably self-conscious feel to proceedings. This extends to Cowan and inker John Floyd's smugtastic habit of signing the splash pages, tripping the narrative up every time. That apart, the artwork is the saving grace of the book, with the realistic approach grounding the horrors. It's just a shame the horrors are so frequent. The odd spilled internal organs, fine, let's see the stakes, but too much viscera gets old very quickly (click on ever-so-slightly censored image to enlarge).
The elegant cover by Rafael Grampa doesn't match the mood of the book, with this Dominique's self-possession reflecting a woman light years from the character we meet inside. Plus, the posing is awkward, and the snake gives the impression that our heroine's a hunchback. I really like the logo (even without the necessary colon) and colouring, though.

I hope there's an audience for this comic. I love the idea of it, but so far the execution isn't for me.

8 comments:

  1. A lot of reviews for this title has been meh. That's a bit disappointing since I've been looking forward to it, but yet I will still be giving it a shot. Who knows? It may have what I want or am looking for.

    Thinking back on it, a couple of Vertigo titles that I read never really hooked me right away at the beginning like Sweet Tooth, iZombie, and Fables. However, after a read a few issues or completed an arc or two, I feel in love with them. This could be the same for me where I'm unsure at the beginning but I ended up loving it.

    Out of curiousity, will you be trying The New Deadwardians, the mini-series Vertigo is releasing next week? Looking interesting, with Dan Abnett writing.

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    1. Please do give this comic a try, it's not like we always agree! And yeah, the New Deadwardians sounds fun, I'll risk it for a biscuit.

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    2. Read it finally. Not to bad, with some interesting setup and start to this new world. The inking kind of bothers me at some points and there is big splash page of the monster that makes me wonder if the artist from American Vampire stepped in to draw it. Also, the narration is a bit annoying and does not follow well with the dialogue, like the scene at the church.

      Still, I rather enjoyed it and will continue to pick up the next few issues to see where this goes.

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    3. Please do yell if you reckon it gets great!

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  2. I'd been looking forward to this book for a while... but even allowing for the presence of the supernatural, it trades much more in New Orleans cliche than New Orleans reality -- and this from someone with only a frequent visitor's grasp of life NOLA. I realize it's not Treme, but I was so much hoping for something a little more grounded, and a little less frantic.

    That said, I'm going to give it another issue or two, in part because it's so damn nice to see Denys Cowan's art again (looking great!), and in part because there's a lot of potential in this concept... it just seems a little too broad and obvious at the moment.

    I'll also be giving it a reread; I'm not entirely sure I gave it a fair shake for what it is, rather than what I wanted it to be.

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    1. Give us a shout if the book finds its feet, Rob. The narration toning down the poetics would be a help ...

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  3. I just wrapped up this issue not more than a couple of minutes ago, and your review (which I was saving to view until I read the issue) is spot on. If the tone had been more along the lines of what the cover represented I think that the chaos of the issue could have been drummed down a bit. The gore was too over the top and the pacing was horrible. The writing did create the atmosphere of New Orleans, which is much-appreciated, but definitely not a saving grace. I'll give the second issue a gander, but this one didn't do it for me.

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  4. I wonder if every cover is going to be in this, I dunno, Art Nouveau style. Dominique Laveau, Flapper.

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