Girl Over Paris by Gwenda Bond, Kate Leth, and Ming Doyle

So, when this miniseries was announced, I just about died of excitement. I mean, Gwenda Bond, whose books I love, Kate Leth, whose books I love, and Ming Doyle, whose art I love. There’s basically no better team in my mind to handle converting Gwenda’s great Cirque American stories into comic form. I preordered it, I got it loaded up to my comixology account, and then, because I am terrible, it sat in my to-be-read pile for like a year. No, I do not know why I am like this.

I actually ended up reading Girl in the Shadows before reading Girl Over Paris, which is not the recommended reading order. I’m apparently (and sometimes unknowingly) a reading-order anarchist. No rules, no masters, I’ll read books whenever the hell I want. Except I actually do sort of wish that I’d read them in the right order in this particular case. One of my complaints with Girl in the Shadows was how the magic presence in it was so much more overt than it was in Girl on a Wire, the first book in the series. It seemed like a drastic shift at the time. But Girl Over Paris has such a pleasant mid-point between the two, and if I had read them in the correct order, it would not have felt nearly as jarring. I fully retract my complaint on that one. Whoops.

Girl Over Paris follows Julieta Valentina Maroni, the famed tightrope walker, as she and several of her Cirque friends are invited to a circus expo and festival in Paris. For Jules, this is an opportunity to prove herself to the world, after her rather dramatic fall in the previous book. And it’s also an opportunity to get some alone time with her boyfriend, Remy. Gwenda Bond already does such a great job of capturing that age and that first love, and I feel like this is also something that Kate Leth is really good with, so the two of them working together really brought it together in a super-fun way. The romance of Paris and the excitement of the high-wire – they were made for each other, no?

Where Girl on a Wire was very much inspired by Romeo and Juliet, you can’t keep telling that story forever, especially not once Romeo and Juliet themselves have gotten a happy ending where neither of them died. Girl Over Paris was, much to my delight, strongly inspired by The Phantom of the Opera, which is one of my favorite things ever. I didn’t realize this until at least chapter 2 (out of 4), and I just… Kate Leth and Gwenda Bond writing modern-day circus Phantom of the Opera… be still my beating heart. But of course it was Phantom. A ghostly presence in love with a young and beautiful performer and kidnapping her lover… in Paris, no less? When it came together in my mind, I literally did like, the Italian chef kiss. My compliments to the authors.

So, you know, I’ve never been to Paris. But obviously a huge amount of fiction is set in Paris (probably nearly as much as is set in London), and so while I can’t vouch for the realism of the story or the art, I can certainly vouch for its verisimilitude. The story takes place at several famous Parisian landmarks, as well as taking us into the renowned catacombs under the city (I mean, I told you it’s Phantom of the Opera, right?). Jules does one of her high-rise tightrope walks at the Eiffel Tower itself, and the entire scene is just stunning. Ming Doyle’s art does a lot of heavy lifting to capture the city, and it works. I really want to plan a trip to Paris now, to say the least.

One of the unusual things here was seeing some of the shifts in how Jules is written by just Bond or by Bond and Leth together. I think there was a palpable shift in her character, and it wasn’t a bad thing at all and it still very much felt like the Jules we already knew from book one, it was… interesting. And it was interesting, living in this age of social media, how much Jules felt like Kate Leth to me here. There were multiple points where Jules would say or do something and I’d kind of think “yeah, that sounds like Kate” or certain things just had hallmarks of Leth’s other works that I’m familiar with. Again, it’s not a bad thing at all, in fact I think it lends more realism to the character – she feels more like a real person.

I would love it if this series 1) continues (I don’t think anything concrete has been announced yet), and 2) alternates between novels and comics, in terms of format. I think that would be a really interesting structural change that few series could pull off. But this team of writers absolutely can and should. Like I said, nothing concrete has been set with more Cirque American yet – Bond is writing approximately a million other books (including her delightful Lois Lane series) and Leth has taken a job with Hasbro and is now doing limited comic work, if any. But goddamn, could we please get this team back together, at least a couple more times?

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