For the benefit of those readers who had not had the good fortune to read the first volume of Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer (or those, like me, who hadn’t read the original book in a while) this second volume begins with a performance, staged by the titular Great Puppet Theater. They tell us the real story of Pinocchio and how he never became a real boy but did live happily ever after with his father, Gepetto. At least, he lived happily ever after until the night when vampires came to their home and killed the old toymaker. Thankfully, as a bloodless wooden puppet, Pinocchio was uniquely suited for the life of a vampire hunter. Aided by The Blue Fairy and Master Cherry (the carpenter who originally found the magic wood that Gepetto later shaped into a puppet), Pinocchio protects his home village from the vampire menace.
We soon meet The Great Puppet Theater in the flesh – er, wood – as the story begins in earnest. Made up of the other puppets made of living wood whom Pinocchio encountered in his original journeys, the troupe of wooden players have been seeking their lost brother since they, too, had had an encounter with vampires and since their master, the showman Fire-Eater, was killed. The troupe happens upon Carlotta, Pinocchio’s only friend, who has also been looking for Pinocchio ever since he and his entourage left their village in search of a mysterious Master Vampire that – legend has it – rules over all of the blood-sucking undead. Eventually family and friends are reunited and the quest continues, leading up to a stunning cliffhanger.
Fans of the first volume hoping for more of the same will not be disappointed, as this sequel features more of what makes this series so amusing – slapstick and sarcasm in equal measure, as Pinocchio throws out increasingly insulting lies in order to make his nose grow so he can break it off into a stake. Yet Van Jensen’s scripts continue to build beautifully upon the original premise, further fleshing out the world with the addition of The Great Puppet Theater and its colorful cast of characters. Based off the archetypes of both the Commedia dell’arte and classic Neapolitan puppetry, the stock personalities of the troupe’s members do not make their antics and arguments any less entertaining.
Dusty Higgins’ artwork has evolved along with Jensen’s scripts. I noted in my review of the first Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer that Higgins’ work resembled that of Jhonen Vasquez of Johnny The Homicidal Maniac fame. The puppets and vampires still sport a similarly stylized look, but there’s a subtle softness to Higgins’ human characters this time around. Indeed some of the panels featuring Caroltta are downright mangaesque.
If you own the first Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer book, you owe it to yourself to pick up this equally excellent sequel. And if you don’t own the first book, you should get it immediately along with the rest of this series. I consider this series a must-have for any serious Young Adult Graphic Novel collection.