The last place Blanche, a 1930s housemaid in the service of an elderly Parisien lady, thought she would work is in a brothel. But this uptight and inexperienced young woman finds herself doing just that, following a tragic sequence of events that see her witness a murder then find her roommate shot dead by the men who did it. With the police writing it off as a suicide, Blanche decides to track the murderers down herself, following the trail to a high-class brothel crammed with city officials and visiting dignitaries. Her prudish outlook isn’t going to get her very far as a traditional prostitute, but the madam sees her potential as a ‘Miss Don’t Touch Me’, a fetishistic governess-style character, who cannot be touched and issues severe whippings to gentlemen who fall out of line.
A bold thriller ensues, as the plot weaves around Blanche’s inability to fit in with the existing girls and her amateur investigations into discovering who murdered her friend.
Hubert paints a harsh picture of brothel life, where the working women are treated as little more than silk-clad slaves. Beatings from angry clients are common and the plush service bedrooms are a long way away from the dormitories that the women have to sleep in.
Kerascoet has illustrated Dungeon and has a similar style here, with the cartoonish illustration providing easy access to a complex but well-structured plot. It’s simultaneously sexy and disturbing, the style of the artwork ramming home the occasional sex and violence of the piece, because it’s so surprising to see it illustrated in this style.
Miss Don’t Touch Me is a finely crafted jewel of a graphic novel, featuring some superb illustration, adult themes and sophisticated storytelling. It shows once again that the French, with their mature market for sophisticated and artistic drama, are right up there amongst the finest contemporary comic creators in the world.
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