Review by Frank Plowright
An Edwardian era bawdy comedy starring a strong, single minded and eccentric heiress inadvertently involved with the criminal community was timed just right for the UK in 2019 what with Peaky Blinders and Gentleman Jack being two of the year’s TV drama successes.
A healthy diet of smut informs Jane Sayer’s comedy about the unconventional Lady Victoria Lone and her maid Charlotte Chase, and how their fortunes become embroiled with couple of conmen seeking prey around the London taverns. The conmen’s original plan is to fleece a couple of Americans in true Carry On fashion via one of them made up as a woman, but the tale they’re told dangles even greater riches. British films and TV sitcoms have a long history of improbably gruesome men attracting other men if dressed as a woman, and Sayer’s plot operates by giving the audience a knowing wink, so the improbabilities and masquerades are accepted in the name of farce. It’s clever, and the double entendre dialogue funny, but the novice writer is apparent in scenes extended beyond their natural lifespan in order to accommodate the back and forth banter.
In artistic terms Claudio Munoz is a work in progress. The raw talent is there, he puts the effort into the period fittings and settings, his people are lively, and the steampunk designs he comes up with for Roni’s inventions have some charm. Where he falls down slightly is in the comic timing, underselling some jokes, while expressions don’t always reflect the circumstances. There are some wonky looking people to begin with, but that’s straightened out to fall within the bounds of stylistic individuality by the end.
There’s a lot of fun brewing with what’s only an opening chapter, and it comes as quite the surprise when the story finishes on a cliffhanger, yet there have been 56 pages and we’ve come to know a group of individuals very well. It’s a promising set-up, and it’s hoped a conclusion is forthcoming. On that matter, however, Fair of Face, Sleight of Hand is a curiously anonymous graphic novel, not sold through online retailers, not featuring an ISBN or barcode, nor cover price or publication details. If interested, your best bet is to head for TheBellesComic Facebook page and make enquiries there.