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The Victorian    by Trainor Houghton order for
by Trainor Houghton
Order:  USA  Can
Penny Farthing, 2002 (1999)
* *   Reviewed by Lance Victor Eaton

This review discusses Acts I-III, the first three graphic novels of The Victorian: Self-Realization, Self-Immolation, and Self-Estrangement. What's most striking is not how little the title character appears but how little that fact matters. In this twenty-five issue (or five graphic novel) series, Trainor Houghton weaves together the stories of Lazlo Gerevich, a boy at the College of the Order of the Blue Rose in the late 19th century, four police officers on the New Orleans Police Department, a Cajun taxi driver, a Victorian-era academic, and several other rich characters along with the mysterious Victorian, a super-hero of sorts. Within these panels, The Victorian, as he appears on the covers, reveals himself only on the rarest occasions and speaks even less. But his assault on the criminals of New Orleans speaks for itself, as dozens turn themselves in to find sanctuary from the dreaded man.

The storyline tags itself as 'A Story Told in Five Acts,' and readers should remember this, as the first graphic novel can prove confusing and hard to follow. Like any good play, the first act introduces the main characters, provides exposition, and some inclination as to where the story will go. The first volume contains seven issues while the following two hold only six and five respectively. Volume one is also accompanied by a Sourcebook with serves as a great introduction to the series. The extras in each graphic novel improve its quality and help flesh out the story. Often including introductions, afterwords, short written pieces, character profiles, still prints and other reference information, these graphic novels feel like elite DVD editions. The quality is also high, with a full range of color and glossy paper.

The art works well for the series on the whole. Given its many thematic influences and geographic scenes, the artists mixed light and dark colored scenes fantastically. With all the story threads, such transfers as that from a dark alley to a well lit kitchen swiftly change gears. New Orleans is portrayed in a dark and gritty manner which contrasts well with other scenes such as flashbacks of Lazlo in the 19th century, where the color fades like an old picture. However, a major artistic flaw plagues these three novels. Winston 'Fitz' Fitzrandolph is first portrayed as a slightly haggard man with short blonde (distinctly yellow) hair and glasses rounded on the bottom. But Fitz changes significantly in appearance through the story - between this portrayal and that of a youthful man with brown curly hair and square-rimmed glasses. Such inconsistency also haunts the character of Trasclair 'Trace' Baineaux, the thickly-accented Cajun taxi driver.

Despite this, the series deserves praise. Though The Victorian includes a super-hero, it is not super-hero driven. Instead, Houghton confronts readers with a variety of connected plots through which they come to understand just what this super-hero really means and represents.

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