Written by: Pat McGreal
Photography by: Stephen John Phillips
Digital Art by: Jose Villarrubia
Painted Art by: Rebecca Guay
Published by: Vertigo
Veils is unusual for modern graphic novels in that it contains neither a hero in the conventional sense, nor really a villain. The story revolves around young woman Vivian Pearse-Packard, who has recently married Harry, the son of a British ambassador. While her husband and father-in-law converse with the Sultan, Vivian is introduced to the women of the harem, who tell her the story of Rosalind, the white woman who became head wife and mother of a dynasty, while they also decorate her skin with their art, symbolically looping her about with their friendship and customs. Eventually, Vivian must choose between the prison of her marriage and the prison of women in the harem.
The art is fascinating: the first half, the story of Vivian first encountering the harem, is a combination of collage and photography that evokes the aesthetic of Alma-Tadema. Once in the harem, a story being told changes the art to a very faery tale-like style, similar to Ivan Bibilin. Subsequently, the art reflects the changing focus–the “real” world of Harry and the Victorian Middle East vs. the stylized, dreamy world of the harem, the world that fascinates Vivian more and more. The art of the book itself reflects the path Vivian takes, as well as reflecting the inner journey she makes as her flesh is inscribed with new ideas and emotions.
The story is very surreal in a lot of ways, given that it is a kind of internal heroic journey. Vivian’s thoughts and motivations are never clearly expressed, however, and readers who expect clearly defined actions and perfectly defined right and wrong will be frustrated and disappointed. On the other hand, if interior journeys, culture clashes, and the exploration of what can be right for one person and not another interests you, then Veils will appeal. The art is just fantastic, and fans of graphic novels in general will appreciate this one as something different and interesting.