Thursday, March 17, 2011


Pat McGreal: author
Stephen John Phillips; Rebecca Guay; Jose Villarrubia: artists
Paperback: 96 pages
Publisher: Vertigo (October 1, 1999)
4/5 stars

On the most basic level, Veils is a story of a Victorian British gentlewoman coming to the Orient with her husband.  Once there, she is invited to meet the ladies of the local Sultan's harem.  Through this experience, she learns new truths about herself, her husband, even her basic beliefs.

There is also a story-within-a-story in Veils.  While Vivian is visiting the harem, she is told the story of another European lady, and her adventure in a harem.  This tale is told in a style quite different from Vivian's story, and gives an added dimension to the novel as a whole.

On a deeper level, this is a story about veils, both literal and figurative, and the positive and negative impact of the various veils that are worn throughout life.  It is very thought provoking to look back at the story, after reading, and find the many instances of veils, and to think about veils in one's own life.

Veils is a novel told in both traditional graphic art style (drawn) and with photographs and computer graphics.  The traditional art is simply stunning, done in a dreamy style with soft colors, with frames shaped into designs that fit the harem style so beautifully.

Vivian's story is told in actual photographs, with CG backgrounds.  While original (and for 1998, most certainly so), this is the weak link of the novel.  The composition of the photos is fantastic, the models do a wonderful job of showing emotions, and the use of shading and effects is well done.  But the photos are so new and crisp, that they fail to convey the feeling of the Victorian age.  They feel fake and therefore appear what they are--photo ops of models in Victorian era clothing--rather than looking like scenes from a Victorian adventure.  Each frame is jarring, reminding the reader that this is not really happening, and absolute immersion in the story is impossible.

Except for that flaw, Veils is an interesting story with strong social and gender issues, and the reader is left with much food for thought.

Note: this novel does contain images of marital and consensual sex and discussion of same sex relationships.

~~Read for the Graphic Novel Challenge.~~


  1. sounds interesting
    wonder if they have it at the library and also wonder if my reputation will be irrevocably ruined in the eyes of the librarians - if I borrow it

  2. Yes, it will. All but one of our Burlington librarians treats me as if I might contaminate them with my piercings, my tattoos and my "comic books". Sad, but true. Despite the fact that, as I have come to learn, the graphic novel medium is a really valid medium. I'm really floored by some of the good ones. Amazed, awed, inspired. The bad ones deserve the rep but the good ones are astounding.

    If you decide you do want to read it, let me know and I'll loan it to you before I take it to McKays. I can't help but think it would be an excellent introduction to the graphic novel medium!