Review by Frank Plowright
The Vampires’ Ball occasionally features strips running over two pages, but despite this being an earlier work than the previous books, the standard format is the single page gag strip. It proves the creative team of François Gilson, and particularly artist Clarke (Frédéric Seron) have their staging running very smoothly from early in the strip’s history. In fact Melusine reads more like a newspaper gag strip, offering naturally good-humoured material with a supernatural bent.
It’s possibly been explained in the as yet unavailable in English opening volume why teenage witch Melusine is the servant to the ghostly madam in a haunted castle, but not since. When not employed on the endless cleaning duties an old castle entails, Melusine practices her spell casting and potions. At these she’s manifestly better than her friend Cancrelune, whose slapstick incompetence supplies frequent gag pay-offs. Witches are the primary focus, but other supernatural beings appear if their particular foible fits a joke.
While it’s probable that the youngsters at whom the book is aimed will enjoy the strips throughout, this isn’t one of those projects that includes the extra layer guaranteeing a decent laugh for the adults that may have to read it to them. The sample strip’s good, but the book as a whole is hit and miss, and reading adults will have to take solace in Clarke’s charming cartooning, which is first rate throughout. Occasionally, though, such as with a gag about morbidly obese man compelled to lose weight, there’s a step away from the childhood audience into more gruesome territory.
Where Gilson and Clarke nearly always fall flat is when they extend a strip past a single page, such as with the title strip, the three pages that close the book. They use the same method of setting up a final panel gag, but Clarke’s art apart, there’s little but the obvious to lead us there as Gilson rambles around two pages too far.
There’s almost nothing in the way of continuity, so although the next album is Love Potions, the books can be read in any order.