Earl Cain or Count Cain is the lead character in the gothic shojo manga, Godchild, created by mangaka Kaori Yuki. Cain’s full name is Earl Cain C. Hargreves and he is the heir of the Hargreves family – making him Earl of Hargreves. Cursed (by his father) to a life of solitude, Cain investigates mysteries involving poison, particularly 19th century English poisons.
Godchild is part of The Earl Cain Series, which Yuki divided into five series, with the eight-volume Godchild being the fifth series. The first four series are prequels to Godchild. The Cain Saga, Vol. 1 (or Series 1), subtitled Forgotten Juliet is an anthology of five tales involving love, friendship, and betrayal. Although decidedly gothic, The Cain Saga, Vol. 1 has elements of historical fiction, mystery, psychological suspense, and romance.
Earl Cain appears in three of the five stories in The Cain Saga, Vol. 1, including the opening tale and title story, “Forgotten Juliet.” In this story, Cain investigates a ghostly love story that puts a decidedly macabre twist on a pivotal moment in Shakespeare’s drama of doomed lovers, Romeo & Juliet. In “Branded Bibi,” Cain runs into a case of identity theft that recalls the over-the-top revenge of the Korean crime thriller, Old Boy.
The best story is “The Boys Who Stopped Time.” In a sidebar included with this story, Yuki mentions that she used the films, Young Sherlock Holmes and Dead Poets’ Society, as references for “The Boys Who Stopped Time.” In this story which involves arcane science, secret pacts, subterfuge, and murder at an exclusive boys’ boarding school, the reader will find shades of the Hardy Boys and EC horror comics.
I imagine that fans of Godchild will like this, but new readers will find themselves immediately lost, simply because they won’t know a thing about Earl Cain. Each of the first four tales (which are much longer than the concluding story, the darkly comic revenge tidbit, “The Death of Cleo Dreyfus”) features multiple passages in which the narrative is garbled because of back story or confusing characters.
Still, I found The Cain Saga, Vol. 1 worth the struggle. This is like a macabre sampler of sweet and pungent chocolates. Kaori Yuki’s lushly textured art, which features romantic-flavored figure drawing, is part Gothic Lolita and part 19th century romantic illustration. The five tales really do recall the ghoulish revenge stories that EC did so well in the 1950’s. Yuki’s work here makes her kind of a Japanese cousin to Al Feldstein and Jack Kamen, so that’s reason enough for fans of Gothic shojo to try this.
Thanks to barnesandnoble.com for the images. The Comic Shop Locator phone number is 1-888-COMIC BOOK.