A follow-up to the pulpish first volume, Hubert and Kerascoet’s Miss Don’t Touch Me 2 (NBM/ComicsLit) continues the original French graphic novel’s period melodrama sans its serial killer storyline. Our heroine Blanche, still stuck as a big-draw virginal dominatrix at the Parisian bordello the Pompadour, finds romance in this outing in the person of a blond scion of wealth named Antoine. Interfering with our heroine’s chance at happiness are a jealous rival at the Pompadour, Antoine’s hypocritical dowager mother and Blanche’s own manipulative mère who shows up in her life after abandoning our heroine and her sister years ago.
Where the first book had a decent murder mystery for its forward thrust, the Hubert-scripted sequel proves more meandering. There’s a small attempt to make something of Blanche’s boyfriend’s chasteness, but when the story revelation comes, it’s no surprise to 21st century readers even if it is to our somewhat naïve thirties heroine. Through much of the graphic novel, Blanche is more victim of her era than she is an active protagonist, though there is a satisfying moment near the end where she hauls off on her mother’s scummy ex-boyfriend. The class-based themes embedded in the first volume are made much more explicit here, but the less subtle approach doesn’t tell us anything new about Miss Don’t Touch Me’s world. I was intrigued by the Sweet Relaxation Psychiatric Clinic that appears in the second half of the book — a reminder of just how barbaric early mental health treatment could be — which in its own way proves just as creepy as the serial killer plotline in book one. But even this can’t lift the book up to the compelling level of the first.
Keracoet’s (a pseudonym for Marie Pommepuy and Sébastien Cosset) art again catches period Paris beautifully; though there aren’t as many visually gothic trappings in this story, there is a nice drug-induced hallucination sequence where the artists get to let loose. In terms of its look the “mature readers” graphic novel is as stylish as the first book, though midway when one of Blanche’s customers complains about her performance that night (“What happened to that enthusiasm that made all her charm?”) I found myself thinking we could probably ask a similar question of this book’s creators. Slickly made and packaged, Miss Don’t Touch Me 2 remains a pale expansion on the original.