It was, perhaps, inevitable that the trend of combining classical literature with monsters begun by Pride and Prejudice and Zombies would eventually find its way into the worlds of graphic novels and fairy tales. This is the only logical reason I can think of for a book like Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer existing. But sometimes Logic must take a back-seat to Awesome and this little graphic novel is nothing if not awesome.
We know from the beginning that this is not going to be a Bowdlerized Walt Disney’s Pinocchio. A brief comic at the start summarizes the original, darker Pinocchio stories by Carlo Collodi, informing us that things did not end Happily Ever After. Now, Pinocchio is older and somewhat wiser, fighting to avenge the death of his father Geppetto at the hands of the vampires who have secretly taken over the village of Nasolungo.
A writer could just play off of the amusing title and trust the story to sell itself but thankfully author Van Jensen is better than that. Oh, we get vampire-slaying in spades, as Pinocchio tells lies and breaks his own nose in order to give himself stakes but there’s more to it than that. There is a mystery, as the vampires work toward an unknown goal under a shadowy leader. There is drama, as Pinocchio weighs his desire to be a real boy and seek love with a real girl against his responsibilities as a hero. And yes, there is even slapstick comedy as that poor cricket, who tried to steer Pinocchio down the straight and narrow path, returns as a ghost only to experience more abuse.
The art by Dusty Higgins is perfectly stylized for this story. This book has some of the best use of shadow I’ve seen in a story printed in gray scale, avoiding the trap so many horror books fall into obscuring the original pencils in inks. With the blocky characters and cartoonish expressions, Higgins’ work is reminiscent, though distinctive, from the work of another artist famous who once worked for Slave Labor Graphics – Jhonen Vasquez of Johnny The Homicidal Maniac fame.
This book, which was already named one of the Top Ten Graphic Novels for Teens by YALSA is a must-have for any public library graphic novel collection. There’s nothing here the 12 And Up crowd can’t handle though I would advise being careful to make sure this doesn’t accidentally get shelved in the children’s section because of the title. Promote this book to your Hot Topic teens and tweens as well as all fans of Fables and Tim Burton’s films. And I suppose it should go without saying that any Buffy fans among your patrons will be equally amused by this book.
Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer, vol. 1
Written by Van Jansen; Art by Dusty Higgins
SLG Publishing, 2009