15th Jan2018

‘Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini #2’ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Cynthia Von Buhler | Art by Cynthia Von Buhler | Published by Titan Comics


The first issue of this book I labelled under both ‘quirky’ and ‘well, that was a pleasant surprise’. It’s certainly not a book for everyone, but the Hard Case imprint logo should tell you that anyway. Creator/Writer/Artist Cynthia von Buhler is quite the colourful character herself, and the book certainly reflects that sensibility. The story is inspired by the strange death of Harry Houdini on Halloween 1926, and is a fictionalised take on that, peppered through as it is with real life people such as Arthur Conan-Doyle and Agatha Christie. The real star though is a girl possessed of a rather fabulous name, Minky Woodcock.

Minky, like many women in the 1920’s, is not happy being a secretary for her private investigator father Benedick Woodcock. When Conan-Doyle comes to her father’s agency with a case, she pretends to be a private investigator and takes it on. Bizarrely, to investigate Houdini and see if he is really a medium as his tricks just seem too good to Conan-Doyle. Along the way she sits in on a fake séance that she soon realises is fake, though the medium seems to channel her mother. Last issue ended with Minky getting herself appointed Harry’s assistant, all the better to keep an eye on him.

This issue starts with some shenanigans, as someone seems intent on hurting Houdini. His soup is poisoned, though his wife eats it instead, and one of his tricks is sabotaged, fracturing his ankle. Minky is on tour with Harry, and gets the lowdown from him on why Conan-Doyle dislikes him so much (though Harry does not know who Minky is or who she is working for). Conan-Doyle had had Harry come to a séance, claiming they could contact Harry’s dead mother. Harry realised it was all a sham, taking advantage of people, and resolved to debunk it everywhere he could, creating many enemies such as Margery, the fake medium Minky visited. Minky and Harry then get a little up close and personal.

After delivering a lecture at a university debunking spiritualists, Harry is approached by two students. One, an artist called Sam, is invited to Harry’s studio to draw him, the other is a slightly weird follower of spiritualism studying divinity, who seems less enamoured of Harry. He tells Harry he has heard Harry can withstand many blows to his abdomen, so could he try? Harry agrees, but before he can set himself the student punches him several times in his abdomen. Harry seems hurt, but brushes it off. Later that evening, while teaching Minky his water tank trick, they engage in a little unscheduled bondage play, and Minky steps on him. Harry collapses, seemingly dead. Escape from that one Harry.

Just as with the first issue, the period feeling is layered on on every page, and the personalities really shine through. I enjoyed the dialogue, and the meshing together of fact and fiction in a seamless narrative. Although we know Minky is a bit of a girl already, Harry Houdini was fleshed out nicely this time round. Neither saint nor sinner it seems. The air of mystery is also sustained. Who is trying to hurt Harry? Conan Doyle? Margery, the fake medium? Also, if Margery is a fake, how did she seemingly channel Minky’s mothers spirit? Why does Minky think her mother’s death suspicious, but no-one else does? Obviously we have a lot more to come yet. Some great covers again too.

Another solid slice of alt-history, with real facts and people woven into a fictional story. Mysterious and entertaining in equal measure, with a sprinkle of adult themes, I think we have a cult hit on our hands here.

**** 4/5


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