An elegantly empathetic look at a historical figure typically seen as emblematic of callous aristocracy, Rodolphe and Annie Goetzinger’s Marie Antoinette, Phantom Queen (NBM) is a period ghost story done with stylish panache. As the artist responsible for a GN appreciation of Christian Dior (Girl in Dior), Annie Goetzinger has long shown an affinity for blending historical detail with more fanciful modern stories. In Marie Antoinette, we’re taken to the 1930’s where Maud, a painter and moneyed widow whose stepson has been maneuvering to take over her fortune, makes a connection in the gardens of Trianon with the restless ghost of Marie Antoinette.
Once this psychic connection has been made, Maud begins to dream that she herself is being led to the guillotine, while a séance brings the queen’s apparition up for all the participants to see. Soon our heroine is actively communicating with the ghost of the executed queen while her stepson works to get her committed.
If the comparison between the slandered queen and our besieged artist doesn’t fully work, it does provide scripter Rodolphe and artist Goetzinger space to examine each woman’s privileged milieu. (We even get a brief sympathetic glimpse of Louis the Sixteenth.) Even stronger are the scenes depicting Marie’s imprisonment and death.
Though the recently deceased Goetzinger (she passed away in December) had a long and prolific career in French comics, in America she is relatively obscure. (At this point, the only other work of hers in English is Dior, though a GN devoted to the writer Colette is set for summer release through NBM.) That’s unfortunate, since the woman was a remarkable and stylish graphic artist. After poring over the richly rendered panels of Marie Antoinette, I can only hope that the Colette biography is the start of a flood.