If you've read his "Treasury of Victorian Murders," you know what Rick Geary is capable of: well-researched retellings of serious stories in graphic narrative form. But what if Geary applied those skills to something in a non-fiction category? That's where you get "The Adventures of Blanche," three stories reprinted by Dark Horse comics in April that tell the story of a young woman's travels from 1907 to 1921, finding her way in the world and getting caught up in incredible adventures.
In the first story, "Blanche Goes to New York," Blanche travels to the East Coast to study piano under a great teacher. Geary is sure to include relevant era-defining moments in his story, giving Blanche a whirlwind tour first, to show off what Grand Central Station and SoHo and the subways of the day would look like. (That last one was just under construction, just as all those confounded "skyscrapers" were just going up.) Geary could write a historical travelogue without a plot and make a fascinating book out of it. Here, though, he gives us character, as Blanche is a strong woman out of her element, and soon to learn some harsh lessons in life, yet actively work her way out of them.
Oh, and then there's H.P. Lovecraft and the extra dimensional octopus.
There's a reason this book is "historical fiction," though I have an idea that Geary wasn't 100% sure what direction he wanted the series to head in when he outlined this first story. The second two stay much closer to "real life," though they do include some adventurous elements, and the third story has an element of the fantastic, though at least it's based on science.
In "Blanche Goes to Hollywood," we see what happens when she applies her skills to the nascent movie industry, working to add soundtracks to those newfangled movie things. That wraps her up in the newborn Hollywood community, which involves some amazing politics and a worker's revolt. And, of course, Blanche winds up in an out of control balloon flying across town with nothing to pull her back down.
Finally, "Blanche Goes to Paris" moves her across the ocean to have a European tour, only to get swept up in a murder mystery, a possible corporate conspiracy, grand scientific hijinks, and the rushed production of a musical on a month's notice to be played once under the Eiffel Tower on the Winter Solstice. We learn the fate of some characters from the previous story along the way, and are even introduced to Pablo Picasso and Ernest Hemmingway, amongst others. (Not surprisingly, Hemmingway is a bit of a lush with potentially grabby fingers.)
The book ends with hints towards at least the next three stores. The first three took almost a decade to see print, so we can only hope Geary finds time between his current projects to explore Blanche's adventures further.
This is a book that adults can enjoy, and that younger readers might learn a lot from. Geary's well-researched histories of these cities is sure to propel curious readers to learn more about these cities and their projects of the time period, from the earliest days of Hollywood to the construction of New York City's subways.
This Dark Horse publication is in hardcover for a relatively cheap $15.95 for 104 black and white pages. Published in April 2009, it has a similar size to Geary's "Treasure of Victorian Murders" series, and so will sit neatly next to that on your bookshelf.