I kept reading this series after a baffling first volume, and I'm glad I did. Jacques Tardi's bizarre supernatural-tinged adventures are more overtly humorous in this volume, if no more comprehensible than his earlier stories of Mlle. Blanc-Sec.
There are still double-crosses, mistaken identities, disguises, and conspiracies. It is still difficult to tell the conspirators apart. But it hardly seems to matter. There is a swirl of treachery and deceit around Mlle. Blanc-Sec, and if one man is a villain and another not, somebody will surely step up to take the necessary rôle in the plot regardless.
There are some artistic changes between this and the earlier volume of Mlle Blanc-Sec's adventures. Mlle Blanc-Sec's expression changes from time to time. She sometimes looks astonished, or even almost cracks a smile. Although many of the men are visually interchangeable, the truly good ones have quite distinct looks; possibly it helps that two of them are not human in the normal sense. There are still remarkable, lovingly detailed renderings of Parisian street scenes and old automobiles.
The plot twists have gotten more absurd since the first volume, and somehow this makes the story hold together better. The characters are more self-conscious of being within a story (when lightning strikes during a snowstorm and a character questions it, another says "It heightens the mood. ... have you never read Mary Shelley?"). Characters sit down and say "Let us recapitulate" before crowded panels of absurd amounts of text exposition. Towards the end Mlle Blanc-Sec actually says "Look: From its very beginning this story hasn't made a jot of sense to me. And I'm fed up to the gills with complicated stories. What the poor readers must think ..."
The color palette is muted, as in the first book, but seems a bit lighter in this volume. There is even a tragically doomed romantic character who wears some bright red, although mostly the bright colors are reserved for blood and violence.
As with the first book, the author, Jacques Tardi, has drawn many lovingly detailed scenes of Paris of about a century ago. The humor almost disguises the tour de force of his artwork, as for example, a running gag involving a gentleman walking past the "utterly uninteresting" equestrian gold statue of Joan of Arc drawn three times from three completely different angles, each time beautifully. The reader could do worse than this volume to get a visual introduction to Paris immediately before World War I.
This story has some violence and blood and some very mild nudity.