Review by Ian Keogh
When Coraline first arrives at the remote country estate in answer to an ad for a nanny, she’s impressed with the building, but more unusual are all the steam powered inventions visible, including different methods of transportation. The staff she meets are rather vague about her duties, only saying that she’s there to distract the master of the house. He turns out to be a single-minded child genius only interested in constructing more mechanical contraptions, and incapable of any polite social interaction. Coraline is given the strict command that under no circumstances is she to enter any of his workshops about the estate.
Denis Pierre Filippi’s story plays to Terry Dodson’s artistic strengths, featuring beautiful women galore, and our Coraline is busting out all over and sure does bend forward an awful lot. While the master might not have noticed, others have. Another strange aspect of her new position is that at night she enters the wardrobe in her room, is costumed by dressers and told she has to be on set in the manner of some latter-day ingénue Mr Benn. She then finds herself in extremely vivid recreations of universally recognised movie tropes. She’ll be on the Titanic, meeting Tarzan in the jungle, or encountering assorted fairy tale characters.
It’s not only the setting that’s curiously old-fashioned here. It first appears that Dodson’s interested in the mildly risqué glamour illustration of the 1940s and 1950s, and there are panels galore of the buxom Coraline in her diaphanous nightgown or daring Edwardian costumes. As the book continues, though, we’re offered more in the way of Playboy style illustrations contrasted by the occasional picture of innocence such as Coraline sitting on a log surrounded by Disneyesque animals
Muse is all very much tongue in cheek, if not plain silly. To claim all the strange goings-on have a logical explanation is perhaps going too far, but it just about works in context, although Muse has only one real purpose. Those who love the way Dodson illustrates women in superhero comics can now see him strut his stuff without restriction.
In keeping with other Humanoids product in recent years, this combines two volumes as published in Europe. Anyone able to understand French might also want to search out Filippi’s delightful series of children’s graphic novels Gargouilles.