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#45 [Apr. 23rd, 2009|03:19 pm]

100 COMICS TO READ BEFORE YOU DIE (or grow out of them)

#45 GREEN MANOR – Fabien Vehlmann, Denis Bodart

“The unhealthy pleasure with which you dissect human dramas, only to give yourselves delicious shivers.”

The Green Manor is a gentlemen’s club in Victorian London where sleuths gather to share stories of their adventures over brandy and cigars. It’s the place where Scotland Yard inspectors, Holmesian consulting detectives and amateur gentleman enthusiasts come to rub shoulders and peer over their monocles at each other, but mostly what they do is brag. Over the course of elegantly constructed seven-page stories they amuse, challenge and shock each other with boasts and speculations about famous cases that cut straight to the heart of the mystery genre.

Extraneous elements like character development are ignored completely; the disposable detectives are replaced in every story rather than developed over time with the usual host of quirks and oddities. The witnesses and suspects and victims are little more than footnotes and the only real detail is lavished on horrible crimes and clever solutions. Nothing else matters to the club’s members, drawn by Denis Bodart in his classically French style as a collection of overly enthusiastic old mutton-chopped fruitcakes. The detectives are often the victims themselves; falling prey to hubris they all think they’re the heroes of stories just like those written by their beloved Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, when really they’re just set dressings with fancy top hats.

Over the years the Green Manor is visited by almost as many murders as murder enthusiasts, and the crimes are often planned and even committed within its walls. The building itself is the only recurring character over the course of the series, soaking up the murders as well as the morbid fascination with them until eventually it can’t help but become a killer itself.