Review by Ian Keogh
Ellie Braxton is a personal protection agent for the Damocles Agency, capable, attractive and attentive to duties, although somewhat shaken by the events concluded in An Impossible Ransom.
Her current assignment is to ensure the safety of Ava Troy, CEO of Perfect Child, a company that in effect offers designer babies to very rich, but childless couples. Their selection of prospective mothers willing to carry a child to term are all young, attractive and either extremely intelligent or with prodigious artistic talent. It’s a controversial process, not least its exclusivity, and among its high profile detractors is a TV preacher able to command considerable resources when it comes to arranging effective protests.
Ellie’s mind, however, is not completely on the job. She finds Troy unlikeable, and in addition to the previous mission leaving a loved colleague comatose in hospital, there was the revelation that another was infatuated with her. Even more disturbingly, Ellie discovered that the formula increasing the physical capabilities of Damocles agents was tested on political prisoners in Eastern Europe. It’s all affecting her deeply, and this affects her job capabilities.
As previously, Joël Callède’s plotting is first rate. He weaves an interesting thriller with ethical concerns, and these are conveyed with greater subtlety than in Bodyguards, more naturally in conversation rather than in staged information dumps. There’s a greater priority given to Ellie’s troubles and concerns as well, so the character sections are integrated more smoothly than previously, although there are still bumps. It’s an interesting style of plotting for a French album series, as unlike the US system where doses of character progression occur in monthly increments, there’s a considerable wait between each 46 page portion of Damocles. The downside of this approach is highlighted by fellow agent Raj, who seems to have a bigger part to play in the overall story, but barely achieves ten panels of use here.
Alain Henriet could in no way be accused of coasting with his polished artwork, but it’s also noticeable that there’s far less in the way of decorative flourishes when compared with the previous two books. He concentrates more on figures and expression in Perfect Child, gracefully created and transmitting personality. Henriet’s very good at the often tricky task of giving a character a certain look revealing what they’re thinking without it ever coming across as posed.
The story concludes in Eros and Thanatos, but by the end of this cliffhanger, Ellie’s become increasingly dissolute, although seems to have solved one problem.