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The Devil’s Trill
By Sooyeon Won
NETCOMICS, 248 pp.
The Devil’s Trill collects two supernatural stories by Sooyeon Won, creator of the more well-known manhwa, Let Dai. In the title story, we follow a vampire named Eichner over several hundred years as he encounters various reincarnations of his true love. In the second story, “Magic Box,” a man devotes decades to creating the perfect diamond but is offered another chance to recapture his youth, with one very important condition.
“The Devil’s Trill” is perhaps the most melodramatic story I’ve ever read and takes up the bulk of the volume. We begin in Germany somewhere in the 1800s. Eichner—or should I say Count Wittgenstein?—fully looks the part of a stereotypical vampire, with the frilly shirt, high-collared cape, manservant, and castle. We soon learn that he’s a pretty good guy, as his manservant presents his master with dossiers of villains who might make good meals. He’s lonely, though, and is prone to saying incomprehensible things like, “The ones who have seen beauty are already handed over to death, and unbecoming of the life of this world. They no longer are the objects of this sweet blood.”
One day, he encounters a human girl named Elizabeth and becomes enchanted by her. They spend a lot of time together, but eventually Elizabeth must leave to attend a conservatory. When she returns, all kinds of rather silly things occur, culminating in a fight between Eichner and Elizabeth’s new husband and her eventual death from some undefined illness. Eichner resolves to wait for her soul to be reincarnated.
The pattern repeats, with some variations, in 1990. Finally, in 2150, Eichner has been captured and is being experimented on by a cruel scientist. There, he meets an incarnation of Elizabeth, hired to be his bodyguard/warden, who looks capable of living for more than a couple chapters. She hates weak things and proves to be resourceful, saying, “The me of my past lives were quite frustrating, I see” and “I won’t die as easily as the Elizabeth of those previous lives.”
As mentioned, the story is incredibly melodramatic and moves too quickly to really be emotionally satisfying. Too, as the final Elizabeth points out, the first two incarnations of Eicher’s love are quite frustrating, weeping continually and prone to sudden death. Eichner himself doesn’t do much except mope and/or be inexplicably in love with this irksome girl.
The saving grace of the story, then, is its art, which is sometimes astoundingly pretty. Eichner is very attractively drawn and so are the buildings, a personal fancy of mine. For the most part the layouts are pretty straightforward, but there was one page that reminded me very much of one of the images from Melinda Beasi’s review of They Were Eleven.
There’s the black background of space, a skinny vertical column on the left, and some stacked columns on the right. Methinks Won is a Hagio fan!
Because “The Devil’s Trill” dominates the volume with its epic sprawl, “The Magic Box” feels like an afterthought. In it, a jeweler is so focused on creating the perfect cut of a diamond that he doesn’t realize that life is passing him by. When he finally completes his masterpiece, he looks in the mirror to find that he has grown old. I liked the story okay until this point, but the random appearance of a fairy was a little too much for me. At least the ending was somewhat interesting.
All in all, the stories collected in The Devil’s Trill are not excellent. They are, however, enjoyable all the same.
The Devil’s Trill is available now.
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