When I first opened Melusine Volume One: Hocus Pocus by Clarke and Gilson, I was extremely excited. At last, I thought, a collection of cute cartoons about a silly young witch to keep me laughing all autumn and winter. However, Melusine quickly descended into disappointment for me, my disappointment growing deeper with each spell and potion. It was sad: Melusine has beautiful art, but a combination of poor jokes, poor taste, and poor humor add up to one big mess.
First, there is no specification of which age group Melusine is made for. At first glance, I thought this playfully colored comic book would be fun for my little cousin to read, but quickly I discovered otherwise: I saw a nude Melusine sleeping in her bed, curse words — bleeped out, but curse words nonetheless — complaints of boyfriends and of being too fat, and a naughty faerie-witch dressed up in black leather, all of which I would not want to show any child.
The volume also doesn’t have much direction or plot until more than halfway through; until then, it’s just a mash-up of unrelated scenes and classic fantasy puns (potions gone wrong, handsome princes, kisses and toads). Even when the volume does establish a clear storyline — Melusine’s annoying and temperamental cousin Melisande comes for a visit — the story is bulky, awkward, and an unpleasant read. The entire time Melusine and Melisande engage in a bitter magical war with each other, ruining each other’s spells and cussing each other out with enough sadistic odium to please Emperor Gaius Caligula himself. Even the war follows an erratic and odd plot; after Melisande’s bizarre transformation from cupcake-obsessed faerie to dominatrix witch back to cupcake faerie, she goes home, leaving Melusine and friends just as awkward as they were before and the reader confused as to what the entire point of the entire visit was — other than showing Melusine’s wicked scheming and cursing ability and Melisande’s body in a leather swimsuit.
Through all this, Melusine is supposed to be funny, but the jokes are stale. They build up well enough, seemingly gathering for an excellent finish, but they always blow out in the end with the disappointment of a potion gone wrong, the punch line present but smothered under useless gab and awkward panels that drag on quite a few beats too long to be halfway humorous. The main problem with the jokes is that the characters keep talking long after the punch line has been delivered, thus ruining its effect. And the characters restate the obvious, as if worried the reader will not understand a joke unless a lengthy description runs alongside it. This is tedious and boring: unless readers are incredibly stupid, they’ll be able to pick up on jokes and punch lines.
The saddest thing of all is that Melusine had the potential to be a good volume. The characters would be interesting to get to know, and the art is excellent. What I’d like to see is everything cleaned up, and then maxed out: Melusine’s hair and personality need more spunk; her potions need more poof; and her cousin Melisande needs a more annoying voice. Everything just needs to be more. More funny, more bright, more sharp, more clean. Until then, I could only recommend Melusine by Clarke and Gilson to those seeking mediocrity.
[Belle DiMonté ….