Monika Volume 2: Vanilla Dolls
Writer: Thilde Barboni
Artist: Guillem March
Publisher: Titan Comics
A review by Amelia Wellman
In the epic conclusion to this sensual, political and psychological thriller, Monika has spent months in jail after a series of bombings were tied to her. Acquitted of the charges after six months, because of a terrorist group mimicking the Templars of medieval times, she re-enters her life vowing she’ll never put on disguises again. But when she discovers her loft and her art are trashed, and that her murderous sister Erika is still at large and very dangerous, she must make her final choice and put an end to it all. Like volume one, Monika: Vanilla Dolls promises that “the sublime decadence of the chase leads only to pain”. Will you, like Monika, go willingly into it?
Monika: Vanilla Dolls picks up six months after the last volume ended. Monika was sent to prison because she had a connection to bombs that were exploding around the city. She’s released when someone else is caught and tied to the terrorism. The second half of Monika’s arc is trying to rebuild her life after prison but being unable to because A) her friend Theo still has the Japanese on his ass for stealing an android from them, and B) her sister Erika is still part of the terrorist group that’s threatening the city, and when Monika stands between Erika and her cause, Erika will choose the cause.
Compared to volume one, Monika: Vanilla Dolls is a lot less mystery based. This is no longer Monika working out where her sister is, what a handsome politician has to do with it, and what exactly Theo hopes to do with the android parts he stole from his Japanese employers. Volume one established all the questions and Vanilla Dolls answers them. It’s a satisfying conclusion to a story that started as a woman just trying to find her missing sister. More than satisfying. Thilde Barboni has created a story that’s lyrical and haunting. It’s bewitching and eerie, more like poetry than prose, as it draws you through the plot like a dream.
Guillem March’s spectacular art is even more striking this time around. Precise line work, expressive characters, and beautiful watercolours return to keep your eye moving eagerly from one panel to the next. But with Monika: Vanilla Dolls we get some truly amazing shifts in perspective. Very briefly we see through the eyes of Philip the android and it’s perfect. There’s a fisheye effect with stark, bright, all encompassing yellow imposed over this world that’s usually very soft and natural feeling. It feels very mechanical and artificial and it’s so different from everything else it really strikes you.
Buy it! I can’t express enough how beautiful the two Monika books are. Masked Ball opened the world and laid the groundwork of a sensual and political thriller, and Vanilla Dolls swiftly and satisfyingly answered everything the first proposed. It’s a contained story of intrigue, sex, and gorgeous artwork that will stay with you long after you finish reading it.