The Alpha Review
By Andrew Uys
I’ve heard that trade paperbacks — a run of comic issues collected into a graphic novel — are all the rage today. But which ones are worth your time? This column aims to put the spotlight on the spectacular trades — at least according to this writer. And just for fun, we will start with the letter “A,” and each subsequent review will follow with the next letter of the alphabet. While you might object to my taste or my opinion, I hope that this column will help save you time and money when you are next buying a trade paperback, as well as effort in alphabetizing.
G is for Grimm Fairy Tales Vol. 1
Written by Joe Tyler & Ralph Tedesco
Art by Various
All the reviews I have done so far have been about comic trades from major publishers, dealing with traditional heroes or fan favourites, so I think its time to talk about something a little different. Not Exterminators different, but rather a comic that is more of an indulgence than a classic that will stand the test of time. Now, I’ll be upfront about this – Grimm Fairy Tales is cheesecake art, maybe even bad girl art – and either you enjoy the occasional dose of this, or you don’t. If not, read no further, but check back in a few weeks for when I return to more regular fare. Or will I? Hack/Slash anyone?
Grimm Fairy Tales is a fun, easy to pick up, cheesecake comic, which is worth checking out. Unfortunately, the early issues are becoming quite hard to find, and rather pricey, and that’s where this trade comes in. Collecting the first six issues, it has been followed by a second trade. Judging from the number of ‘spin-off’ titles – Return to Wonderland, The Piper – the Grimm Fairy Tales concept has fans other than just me, and part of this is due to the fact that there is more to the comic than the hot women in torn clothing facing down certain death. Grimm Fairy Tales draws upon the wealth of our culture’s fairy tales (duh!) and folk lore and builds upon this. Each issue has modern characters facing a dilemma that is portrayed by fairy tale characters as the protagonist reads a book provided by a mysterious (and rather attractive) dark-haired woman. I’ll explain.
The first six stories are based on the following tales – Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, Rumplestiltskin, Sleeping Beauty and the Robber Bridegroom. Each issue starts with someone, often a beautiful woman, facing a moral or social dilemma. In the case of Hansel and Gretel, it is a teenage girl who is having trouble living with her parents. So, she runs away – joined by her brother – and while hitching a ride with a mysterious dark haired woman is offered a book which contains the tale of…Hansel and Gretel. By the end of the story the girl realizes the dangers lurking in the world, concedes that maybe her parents aren’t so bad and decides to return home.
This type of format is followed in almost all the issues, though recently the comic has broken from this system as it delves into the back story of who the mysterious dark-haired woman is and the conflicts that she faces. Still, every issue ties a particular fairy tale into the story and I personally enjoy seeing how they twist a particular tale to bring out the danger and cheesecake (read sexy women scantly-clad) aspect. Before you condemn the writers or this fledgling comic company for exploiting our childhood stories, I would like to mention that most of these tales were originally quite sexualized and violent. When this comic was first published, I happened to be taking a “Fairy Tales and Folk Lore” English class at university and this is why I picked up the first issue. We were just covering many of these stories, and my Prof was trying to impress on us that the original tales were meant to scare children and titillate adults. The versions that most of us were brought up on were “Disnifications”, and have strayed pretty far from the originals – Red Riding Hood contained overt sexual references, along with Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. Some original versions of Red Riding Hood even contained a lycanthrope (werewolf) in place of a regular wolf, and this is utilized in the Grimm Fairy Tales comic. While I’m not claiming that the Grimm Fairy Tales comic is an accurate depiction of these stories – and my Prof wasn’t too impressed when I showed her the first issue – the comic run is a return to the moralistic, violent, and sexual content that these tales were first meant to convey.
While I thoroughly enjoy this comic, I must make one criticism. The interior art for this series has been inconsistent at times, as different artists have penciled and inked various issues. The covers are often done by the fantastic Al Rio or Talent Caldwell, but the interior art never matches this quality and sometimes even becomes quite bad – at least by my tastes. That being said, the latest issues have been much better and more consistent about the quality of art; matched by the larger developing story line that arcs between the issues. As I stated above, this comic will never be a timeless classic, but it is a lot of fun and another novel approach (remember Fables from last review?) to redefining stories that we thought we had left behind in our childhood. I heartily recommend it, but this is not the comic that will convince the skeptic in your life that there is more to the genre than violence and scantily-clad women.