Thursday, January 06, 2011

Book-A-Day 2010 # 337 (1/6) -- Miss Don't Touch Me, Vol. 2 by Herbert & Kerascoet

It's a sad but common thing to see a fine single story followed up by a piece of middle; many a novel, movie, or comic stood just fine on its own, but was far too popular not to be sequelized. And so the second piece comes along -- but the creators know they have a golden goose this time, so they make sure not to end the story, to be sure that they can continue to visit that goose as often as possible.

Miss Don't Touch Me (also see my review) was a standalone story; it didn't require any sequels and ended exactly where it should. (It was also a compilation of two French albums, which slightly muddies the waters, but it was still one story.) Miss Don't Touch Me, Volume 2 is what happened after the first book was massively successful; it begins with the first book as its foundation and ends in the air, presumably preparing for a Vol. 3.

The world-view, which was so much of the appeal of the original Miss Don't Touch Me, is the same in this second book: world-weary but clear-eyed, with a near-infinite knowledge of the horrible things that people do to each other. But the central character has changed, as Blanche got the revenge she was looking for (or, at least, as much revenge as she's ever going to get) and isn't driven, or angry, or coldly functional as she was in the first book. Instead, she's become just another unrealistic young woman, indulging her hopes and dreams when she should be looking at her life clearly and figuring out what to do next. (That's not unreasonable, or unbelievable, but we do miss the towering flame of rage Blanche from the first book.)

Blanche begins this book by fumbling, very badly, an attempt to leave the Pompadour brothel after discovering that it's yet another company town, carefully designed to drive its girls deeper and deeper in debt to the house. And that's almost the last strong and self-assertive action she takes in this book -- instead, Blanche is acted upon and manipulated and led around by her misled emotions, by a young man she thinks loves her, by her long-lost mother, and by a rival at the Pompadour.

The stakes seemingly aren't as high this time, since there's no serial killer running around and threatening to murder Blanche. But, actually, the stakes are higher, since Vol. 2 is all about Blanche's self-respect and ability to stand on her own -- and, unfortunately, she fails at almost every turn to hold onto either of those, and so reading Vol. 2 is an exercise in seeing a woman we used to respect and root for turn into a frightened doe without resources. Blanche might not be conventionally ruined by the end of Vol. 2, but she's lost sight of all of her strengths and aims, and so has lost everything that made her the Blanche we respected and rooted for in the first book.

Miss Don't Touch Me, Vol. 2 is just as lush and visually enticing as the first volume, and the world is clearly the same -- it's just that Blanche, between books, has lost the edge that gave her a chance in that hard world. If there is a third volume, I hope she can find that edge once again; it's no fun watching her get kicked while she's down.

Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index

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