by Kaoru Mori; adaptation by Sheldon Drzka
published by DC/CMX Manga; $9.99 US
While the main Emma series concluded with book 7, this volume continues visiting the Victorian world, telling tales of some of the supporting characters.
The first two chapters are a flashback to Kelly and Doug Stowner as young marrieds. (Kelly was, later in her life, Emma’s employer.) They’re debating visiting the Great Exhibition, for which the Crystal Palace was built, but the expense will be difficult for them to manage. She’s harshly practical, but the way the two of them clearly care for each other, giving in to make each other happy, softens her. And the wonders of the Exhibition are enough to make one realize it’s worth the sacrifice.
The next two chapters follow Eleanor Campbell, William’s ex-fiancee, on a visit to the beach. In her bathing costume, with long blond hair and headband, she reminds me of Alice in Wonderland. But it’s at the evening’s ball, where her sisters the Countesses display beautiful gowns, that we truly enter her world of society. A young man, considerate and scholarly, wants to get to know her better but may run afoul of her history. (I wish this part spun off into a whole ‘nother series, because I’d like to see a lot more of these two.)
There are two more stories. One features glimpses of other maids and a former mistress, all structured around various uses of the daily newspaper. I didn’t recall the characters enough to identify them, but I liked the framing device. (If you don’t remember either, this listing may be helpful.) Given all the recent troubles of the newspaper industry, the importance of the paper in everyone’s life adds to the feeling that this story is definitely set in the past. The last tale shows Tasha, another maid and Emma’s roommate, returning home to see what her brothers and sisters aspire to.
The detailed artwork continues to astound. The characters are clear, and the focus of most panels, but the backgrounds are impressively detailed, which is key to making the historical setting real to the reader. I like the way the author explores different levels of the culture, with experiences varying depending on family and money. It’s lovely to see the characters’ lives expanding, either with flashback detail or continuing on their own path, beyond the story of William and Emma’s romance.
(A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher — and my very big thanks to them for doing so. I had originally asked my local comic shop to get this for me, but apparently, it was one of several titles that got misplaced when Diamond recently relocated their warehouse. After waiting for six weeks, during which my patient retailer had to put up with me asking where it was, I gave up on that avenue. It was a very pleasant surprise to get one sent to me.)