cover image Veils


Pat McGreal. DC Comics, $24.95 (96pp) ISBN 978-1-56389-355-1

Sublimated Victorian sexuality, white slavery, turn-of-the-century orientalism and the precious hokiness of Hollywood-inspired Arabian exoticism combine in this ingeniously illustrated photo/graphic novel. The book uses photographs (as well as digital and painted artwork) of elaborate sets and costumed actors to carry the story, presenting a richly textured Victorian colonial style and exuding a lush, albeit corny, Middle Eastern mystique. Vivian, a young English housewife, accompanies her insufferable husband on a diplomatic mission to an Arabian sultanate. There, they happen upon the local slave market, where Vivian becomes fascinated by a female slave. Later, visiting the sultan along with her husband, Vivian is invited, quite improbably, to visit the royal harem, where she hears the story of Rosalind, a white aristocrat kipnapped into the harem years before. This book offers a savvy reprise of a durable clich --uptight colonialist West meets seething, unknowable East--that is somewhat recharged by a dose of female homoeroticism and Vivian's kinky attraction to the harem and the sexual domination it symbolizes. The story serves as a dark fable on sex, love and culture, but it's really the kitschy, melodramatic photo illustrations that make this costume fantasy an enjoyable, tongue-in-cheek diversion. (June)