When she was a little girl, Alice visited Wonderland and had many wonderful adventures. She also made many friends. Unfortunately, as she grew older, Alice found it harder and harder to return to Wonderland. She also found more and more need to escape from the harsh reality of Victorian England, a distant father, and a family that only cares about her in regard to how she improves their social standing.
Alice’s need for something stronger than mushrooms to open the doorway to Wonderland leads to a life of crime and a growing addiction to strong drugs. This, in turn, leads Alice to commit herself to an insane asylum, not knowing her father was already considering such steps to cover up his own dark secrets. Unfortunately, the asylum holds new yet familiar dangers, leaving it uncertain that Alice will get the help she needs, or the permanent path to Wonderland she dreams of.
Alice Ever After is not the first graphic novel to offer a dark, twisted take on a classic Childrens’ story. It is not even the first graphic novel to offer a dark and twisted take on Alice in Wonderland. What it lacks in originality, however, it somewhat makes up in execution.
Best known for his work as an artist, Dan Panosian has been writing more in recent years. He provided some of the covers for Alice Ever After, and drew the intricate sequences set in Wonderland. For the most part, however, his duty here is to tell the tale and write the script.
There is a good deal of wit to the story, but Panosian does little to break the mold. One twist of note is that there are characters in the real world who correspond to Alice’s fantasy life in Wonderland, like her ever-smiling drug dealer becoming the Cheshire Cat. Curiously, there are also characters who are clear analogs of classic Wonderland characters, who are totally absent from Alice’s dreams. The corrupt head of the Asylum, for instance, is clearly meant to be the Queen of Hearts.
Unfortunately, little is done with this idea beyond suggesting that Alice’s adventures are the result of emotional neglect as a child and drug abuse as an adult. Panosian nails the execution, but the story is still sadly predictable, with no possibility that Alice really is traveling between worlds. Given that, I fear Wonderland enthusiasts are not likely to enjoy this story. The overall tone is more depressing than horrific. This is sadly true even in the later chapters, as the perils of the asylum are revealed, along with the dark secret that may have prompted Alice’s creation of Wonderland in the first place.
The artwork, at least, is well done. Giorgio Spalletta perfectly captures the mundane terrors of a Victorian asylum. And while I may quibble with Panosian’s story, I have no complaints about his art. Alas, that is not enough to save Alice Ever After. It is not a badly told tale, but it does nothing new with the Wonderland world and I question its ability to satisfy its target audience.
Boom! Studios has not given Alice Ever After an official age rating. I would suggest it is best read by Older Teens and Adults. While there’s little in terms of content to make it inappropriate for younger teens, I think the nuance of the horror elements are best appreciated by older audiences and readers who are wise beyond their years. Under no circumstances should this be read to children as a bedtime story!
Alice Ever After Vol.
By Dan Panosian
Art by Giorgio Spalletta
BOOM! Studios, 2023
Related media: Classic to Comic
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
Character Representation: Addiction, Ambiguous Mental Illness