Goetzinger and Rodolphe weave a delightful ghost story from seemingly disparate threads, gathered from across time and space. Lushly illustrated, not one but two eras come to stunning life under the artist’s studious eye.
This September venerable American publisher NBM Graphic Novels follows up last year’s bestselling success Girl in Dior, with an English translation of artist Annie Goetzinger’s latest fictional graphic biography Marie Antoinette, Phantom Queen. In this new work, Goetzinger teams up with writer Rudolphe, and flies somewhat further afield from true biography, weaving together a tale of supernatural time-displacement across two distinct eras.
Cobbled together from various ghost sightings of the infamous French monarch, Rodolphe and Goetzinger’s swirls around a recently widowed artist named Maud, who begins to channel Marie Antoinette at the royal gardens of the Trianon. Through her conversations with the ghostly queen, Maud discovers the monarch has been trapped between life and death for centuries, tied to the corporeal realm via her lost remains.
Haunted by grief and loneliness, Maud must also fend off her creepy “nephew”, who wishes to marry her for the money she inherited from her much older husband (his uncle). This farcical sub-plot felt a little extraneous and distracting but did help establish Maud’s strong sense of independence and provided an added layer of urgency to her quest to help the undead queen.
In Girl in Dior, Goetzinger’s background in fashion informed the overall design and tone of the story, a resource that also serves her well in Marie Antoinette. Goetzinger’s appreciation for the costumes and clothes of a given period is evident in every ensemble in which she outfits Maud and Marie.
Clothes – especially their colours – evoke mood and tone in Goetzinger’s work, a character’s appearance telling as much about a given scene as the setting or the characters themselves. It’s a remarkable and refreshing attention to detail almost entirely lost in the production line comics of the mainstream, where the archetypal becomes sterile and familiar rather than distinctive and potent.
Two strikingly different historical periods come to exuberant life through Goetzinger’s deft brushstrokes. The sensual, creamy decadence of 1930s Paris melds with the otherworldly luxury of Marie’s late 18th century court to create an bewitchingly immersive reading experience.
Sumptuous, sensual, and simply stunning, Goetzinger’s latest historical opus showcases not only her talent as a set and costume designer but her ability use those skills to choreograph and craft thoroughly entertaining graphic narratives with unparalleled style and grace.
Rodolphe and Annie Goetzinger (W), Annie Goetzinger (A) • NBM Graphic Novels, $18.99