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The Victorian #17

Posted: Monday, February 24, 2003
By: Ray Tate



Writers: Trainor Houghton, Len Wein
Artists: Claude St. Aubin(p), Mostoffa Moussa(i), Kevin Senet(c)
Publisher: Penny-Farthing

Right from the opening, you know The Victorian tries to be different. The book doesn't just recap, it gives the reader a symbolic and clever splash page where the Hat spins a roulette wheel where each section looks upon the important events in the past chapters.

This issue presents Detective Leviticus "Doc" Shumpert's encounter with the Hat. The first thing I noticed on the two page spread was the curious flourish to the Hat's staff. A giant bee seems to be encased in the globe sitting atop. I never before noticed the bee, but then, The Victorian while relating an engrossing story allows even faithful readers to discover something new.

The encounter leads to a fun rooftop chase filled with mystery, suspense as well as humor that shows exactly what the stakes are in this duel between the Hat and a history that somehow involves Claude Ballare. One of the book's assets is its attention to the world around the main characters. There's focus, but innocent bystanders are shown as well and on occasion play important parts. In this case, two such people engaging in quite normal behavior emphasize the strangeness of the main characters' actions who ironically operate behind the scenes of the real world.

The proceedings settle when the chase is decided, and the book retreads the previous threads without moving much forward. This slow pace may frustrate some readers, and admittedly, not much occurs this issue that's either shocking or surprising. There are slight changes in the story. Ballare displays how worthless his skin is during the aftermath of Aden's confrontation. Claude St. Aubin emphasizes this amoral attitude through a very seedy representation in his look. He subtly creases the man's brows and gives nasty little wrinkles around the eyes that would creep out anybody who looked at him, yet that somebody would be unable to put their fingers on what exactly about him caused these unsettling feelings.

The story jumps to Trace--the current Hat--and his new friend William Fitzrandolph. Frankly, their conversation is dull, but the information they exposit interests: given the element of time travel being a central theme. I'm hopeful that Trace's dialogue proves true, but the way the book segues to Eudora Kinkaid makes the reader feel uneasy. This feeling resonates through her scenes which on the surface seem innocent. Upon factoring in the information, the scenes play out as they would on a movie screen where the killer is voyeuristically watching our heroine and waiting for the proper moment to strike.

Although the movement of the story is nearly incremental, the chapter is also integral to the overall plot. Since it reintroduces the major players, the chapter also represents a fair jumping on point for readers seeking to join the story. Either type of reader can still appreciate with the artwork which is art noveau adapted to comic book form.



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