Cream Maid – Graphic Novel Review

Would you like to have a Cream Maid in your life? What do you mean ‘What’s a Cream Maid?’ – what a silly question. You see, a Cream Maid is a cat, but not really a cat; they’re big, like a human, and they live in your house as a maid, but they don’t really work, and they cause chaos and destruction, but they make your life better. What’s so confusing about that concept?

Cream Maid is the latest graphic novel offering from writer Mark Dickson and artist Rebecca Burgess that tells the story of Honey and Darling, a couple with a tough marriage who live together in a large house that needs some extra help to keep clean and tidy. To assist them with this they’ve hired Cream Maid, a four foot tall anthropomorphic cat-like creature who can’t speak, and barely seems able to understand basic instructions.

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When the book begins Honey and Darling seem to be having marriage issues, and Cream Maid is a big part of it. Unsure exactly why they hired the strange cat creature, other than the fact that they came with an adorable maid outfit so they must have been qualified, things take a bad turn when they banish Cream Maid from the house after they cause a bit too much chaos. What’s worse, Honey tells darling that she’s not sure she loves him anymore, and perhaps the marriage cannot last. Thankfully, this is only the first section of the book, and it means that there’s plenty of time for them to work through their issues; and a big part of getting the relationship to work seems to be getting Cream Maid to come home, and forming a new bond with them.

The plot of Cream Maid is split up across four distinct chapters, each of which has its own story and its own isolated challenges and issues to resolve; yet these four stories form one broader narrative that shows the evolving life of Honey, Darling, and the titular Cream Maid. Ultimately, it’s a story about learning to communicate with the people in your life, opening up about your issues, and being brave enough to take risks with new things, to build towards making a better life.

Now, one of the big things that will need talking about with this book is Cream Maid themself. What is Cream Maid? Honestly, I don’t know. When the book begins they’re already employed with the family, and the reader isn’t ever really given an explanation about what they are. Over the course of the book the character evolves and becomes a kind of child to Honey and Darling, even being enrolled in school and helping work on the family business. Yet they’re not the child of Honey and Darling. There are points in the book where they acknowledge that they’re a cat, but not a cat, but no one ever seems to question this, despite their being no evidence there’s anyone else like Cream Maid in the world. One of the descriptions for them makes reference to them being like a trickster god, and I can see the comparison, as they are like a chaotic fey creature.

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Ultimately, I don’t think it really matters what Cream Maid is, as what they are isn’t as important as who they are. And who they are is part of the family. Over the course of the book Cream Maid goes from a problematic employee that they throw out of the house to being a part of their family, to being someone that they love and care about. And the journey to this is a big focus of the narrative. During the story Honey and Darling have to confront their own personal issues, their fears, their flaws, and their worries about their future, and Cream Maid helps them to do this. By accepting this strange creature into their lives they learn to be better people. And I think that this is a wonderful message that Dickson is able to convey in delightfully funny ways.

The art on the book, provided by Rebecca Burgess, is really lovely. Having read some of Burgess’ previous work on ‘How To Be Ace‘, I was familiar with their style, and knew that they were good at making the ordinary world look bright and eye-catching. However, it was the work on Cream Maid themself that was a definite standout here. From the first panel where they appear the character looks wonderfully weird and out of place, and the more weird things they do the more I loved it. Burgess is able to create art that is able to appeal to readers of any age, although this art will appeal a lot to younger readers.

Cream Maid is the kind of book where you never know what to expect next, where the world of the ordinary and that of the fantastic crash into each other in unexpected and delightful ways. It takes a look at some very real issues, such as unhappy relationships, work troubles, and interpersonal relationships, yet manages to make it feel fresh and interesting all the time.

An absolute joy to read.

Cream Maid is available now from Arledge Comics.

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