The Black Virgin is the second volume in the Marquis of Anaon series by writer Fabian Vehlmann and artist Matthieu Bonhomme, first published in France in 2003.
Jean-Baptiste Poulain is the Marquis of Anaon – the Marquis of lost souls. It’s a nickname he picked up in the first story, after investigating gruesome deaths, and is quite apt. Poulain’s interest in the ghoulish has been piqued and, as if it’s now his calling, he’s gone to investigate more deaths. This time around it’s a more straight-up murder mystery, with a cast of suspects, clues, red herrings and a satisfying resolution. Two young women have been killed, a year apart on Christmas Eve, and their bodies left at the Chapel of the Black Virgin.
The story focusses on well-worn themes of superstition and the fear of the outsider. Poulain feels the locals’ stares as the room goes silent when he enters the local tavern. And the gypsies camped just outside the town are the obvious candidates for suspicion. Despite an air of familiarity (and a slightly underwhelming image on the cover), it manages to be another solid read, with Vehlmann’s strong, interesting characters and Bonhomme’s rather lovely artwork just as good as the first time around.