What happens when you add to a crew of zany characters a sorcerer's apprentice who's more eager than adept?
Magical mayhem of the best kind.
Melusine is basically a cross between Harvey's Wendy, the Good Little Witch and Archie's Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. All three girls practice magic, live with strange relatives, and have boyfriend problems--especially in the cases of Sabrina and Melusine.
Writer Franšois Gilson has made Melusine funny, clever, and easily exasperated. The young apprentice is also cursed (or blessed, depending on your viewpoint) with a supporting cast guaranteed to drive her nuts. If it's not her ghostly employer making her clean every corner of the crypt and telling her how to do it, it's her clumsy best friend, Cancreluna, being late for appointments and crashing into walls with her broomstick.
When Melusine's cousin Melisande arrives, the strip really takes off. Melisande is the black sheep of the family--a fairy godmother--and Melusine has an intense rivalry with her. The two play off each other very well. Melusine's a bit sarcastic and hot-tempered, while Melisande is slightly na´ve, but persistent. Pitting the two against one another creates some great comic moments--especially after a vampire bites Melisande. The side effects of a vampire bite on a fairy godmother are fabulously funny.
The stories in Hocus Pocus range in length from one-page gags to longer situational humor pieces. I particularly enjoyed the gag that has Melusine accidentally creating a winter miracle as a side effect of one of her spells. There's also one where she helps a ghost with his appearance, and then there's the one where she borrows Melisande's magic wand. Disney fans won't want to miss that last one.
The book does have a bit of a dark edge at times. While nothing is shown on page, some young readers might be disturbed by the monster that seems to eat cats.
Clarke's art is charming. The simplified, open line art style allows for a great deal of expression and gives the page an animated look. The action is laid out well so that even young children can easily follow what is happening. The backgrounds are kept very basic, allowing readers to focus all of their attention on the colorful characters.
I do have one tiny complaint. Many of the characters aren't referenced by name and their relationship to Melusine isn't made clear. While this lack of clarity doesn't necessarily lead to confusion, it does leave the book feeling somewhat unfinished. Most readers won't have a problem with it, but it can be annoying. That aside, Melusine is a great treat.
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