Monika Vol. 2 Vanilla Dolls
Written by: Thilde Barbonie
Illustrated by: Guillem March
Publisher: Titan Comics © 2017
Vol. 2 Vanilla Dolls just came out a few weeks ago this month. In it we continue from where we left off at the end of Vol. 1 with the explosion and aftermath of the conclusion of Masked Ball, you can read about here. Monika continues with issues of her identity, her love life, her sister but also freedom. This volume almost deals with how people adapt to changes in their life such as relationships, especially after she served time in prison and will have to face in how to make a living to some degree. Overall, it is hard to pick one particular theme in this volume as everything escalates from the first volume. That is not to say this volume is disjointed and Barbonie has no clue what they are doing, quite the opposite. After you read it, it all comes back together to the theme of freedom as Monika notes while in prison. Are we truly free in certain circumstances like debt for example? Are free if we lack knowledge? What is freedom?
Barbonie does a great job of creating this fantastical, though modern and grounded approach in this story. The idea of terrorists or nationalist fervor is hardly a new concept, but brought to comics at the forefront in a adult manner is. With the current climate in Europe this comic is not a huge departure from reality, but that’s what makes it so good… and terrifying as well. The android Phillip comes to be more of a central character and only adds to the escalation, drama and sheer panic this volume gives you. Monika is a new creation without years behind her like traditional comic book characters, but when bad things happen you feel them right away. Barbonie has crafted these characters into people you really care about. Many of times I had to stop reading the comic and put my head down to take in the bad news littered throughout the story.
March never ceases to amaze as he continues his work onward. March never comes off as some exploiter of woman as it is tastefully done, and it helps that Monika is character who is comfortable with her own sexuality. Vanilla Dolls is much darker and violent, and March brings that forth with the muted color pallet at certain scenes. The softness is still there but only at needed times. The violence really adds tension throughout the comic. One of the crowning achievements is the fluidity through some panels, as it is a complete setting but split between three to four panels to show movement of the character throughout the scene. Another personal favorite is the sex scene between Monika and Christian. They are very casual and open with each other, as this volume shows them both, especially Christian baring everything. This is not the traditional PG-13 movie where the sheets come over her chest and people lie completely under the blankets the entire time. March gives these character real intimacy that is seldom lacking in almost every other medium when dealing with this topic.
Really, the only downside is this volume is a tad bit shorter and I am already awaiting Volume 3, it cannot come soon enough. This comic feels like a story about millenials dealing in today’s word of terrorism, crazy-minded nationalists and authority figures who do not always have our interests in mind. But instead of selecting caped and costumed super heroes to tackle these issues, the creators appoint young people, along with their android is more than just some tool or machine to Monika.
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