Who knew werewolf politics could be so complicated?
Story: Gail Carriger
Art/Adaptation: Rem/Priscilla Hamby
What They Say
Settling into her new life as the Lady Woolsey, Alexia finds her days quite challenging. Whether it is a regiment of supernatural soldiers camped out on her front lawn or the demands of being the Queen’s “muhjah,” there never seems to be a want of new hurdles to overcome. But when stories of supernaturals rendered normal by some unknown force begin cropping up, Alexia has a rather serious mystery on her hands. Can she root out the cause of this phenomenon, which smacks of some larger plot at work?
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The first volume of the Yen Press adaptation of Gail Carriger’s Soulless novel ended up being a pleasant surprise when it came out earlier this year. A good solid story and excellent artwork from Rem created one of the best manga adaptations I’d ever read. Volume two continues along with the story and does so with the same level of excellence.
Soulless volume 2 adapts the second volume of the Parasol Protectorate novel series, “Changeless.” The title of the original novel highlights the main problem the cast is tackling over the course of the volume. Something has caused the supernatural beings to cease being supernatural. It’s up to Alexia to discover whatever is causing the problem and fix it.
The story meanders along in an unhurried way. What should be cause for a lot of concern is almost brushed aside by the introduction of Madame LeFoux, a not-so-subtle lesbian scientist. Suddenly Alexia finds herself chasing after her husband to Scotland on an airship with an entourage that includes LeFoux, friend Ivy, servant Angelique, Alexia’s sister, and Conall’s servant Tunstell. An attempt on Alexia’s life only complicates matters further, although Alexia doesn’t seem overly concerned about her own safety.
After arriving in Scotland we get to meet Conall’s previous pack mates and an unexpected family relation. (Conall also slips into a Scottish brogue rather suddenly, which I can’t tell if it was intentionally left out before or if it’s a character trait because he’s home.) The cast of this volume was already quite large before adding in these new characters to the mix. Somehow they all manage to stay distinct, even during the chaos of the mummy unwrapping party that the group decides to partake in. (Part of their war spoils when the regiment returned home from India, via Egypt.)
The pacing does suffer from cramming all of this story into one volume of manga, which is especially noticeable during Ivy and Tunstell’s lovers spats. Those two go from head-over-heals to hatred and back so quickly it almost gave me whiplash. Ivy is a fairly comical character, but when these interludes happen within panels of each other it takes on a whole other level of cartoony mischief. It was enough to make me wish that Ivy would just shut up and go away for awhile, as her antics were breaking up the hectic action towards the climax of the story. The brisk pace also rears it’s head in a few other places which gives the whole book an uneven feel. It takes a long time for the mystery to start to deepen, and the resolution was surprisingly swift.
The ending of the book is a bit of a slap in the face to the lead and the readers. After watching Alexia and Conall go at it like the newlyweds they are for most of the volume, the sudden fracturing of their relationship is startling. Part of me now hates Conall for not trusting Alexia, but then again it would be out of character for a man of his time (and he’s several centuries older than that) to just accept what he believes is impossible. Amusingly, it’s not the surprise revelation of the volume, that honor goes to a bit of information we find out about Alexia’s father. It’s too soon to tell if that will come into play in the next volume, or if it was something seeded for a novel that the manga isn’t going to get a chance to cover.
I do like the attention to detail that exists in the art. One of the usual complaints with manga is a sparsity of backgrounds. That’s never been an issue in this series, and scenes are filled with the minutia of life and lovingly detailed looks at a steampunk victorian London. Likewise, the costuming is intense. All of those dresses and the time it must have taken researching and drawing them makes my head spin. The excellence extends to the action in the fist fight late in the volume, which is dynamic and easy to follow.
Soulless continues to be a good read with beautiful art and fun characters. This volume wrestles with condensing the story down to a single volume more-so than the first, but manages to pull it off without too many hitches. The rushed paced does lead to a few strangely abrupt scene changes, but considering the size of the cast and the many different plot strings going on here it’s a small miracle that it all works as well as it does. It’s interesting to see more of Alexia’s steampunk England this time around, although I could have done without Ivy’s antics. Those that haven’t read the novels, like myself, are going to find the ending frustrating and the wait for volume three of this adaptation annoying.
Content Grade: A –
Art Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B +
Age Rating: 16+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: November 20th, 2012