This collection of two adventures starts with what appears to be a riff on the Asian folktale of Momotaro, or the child found in a peach. It opens with a group of black-haired village boys laughing at brown-haired Peach when she tries to tell them her origin story. Her father reminds her that the villagers have always harassed her because she insists on telling her story, then sends her out to find a new life for herself.
After some initial fears and struggles, Peach encounters a band of warriors and joins them in traveling to the Isle of Monsters, who have been accused of looting the surrounding villages. A surprising turn of events resolves the mystery of the thefts and Peach continues her journey with more skills and the impulse to prove herself. Her next adventure happens in a jungle, “Months Later” where she rescues a caged monkey and other wildlife and is pursued by a white man in safari gear and two “natives” with dark skin, feather crayons, and facial markings. She escapes with the monkey, which seems to have magical abilities, only to be captured by pirates, led by an androgynous captain who eventually joins her in returning to the Isle of Monsters and the real villain. The story ends with a happily-ever-after for Peach, who has found her earlier friend and is now ready to fall in love, although she still wants to have adventures.
The art is similar to Franco’s previous work, with a slick digital finish and chibi-style cartoon characters who sport large, lustrous eyes in the manga style. The monsters are big, bulky figures with tusks and bright colors, much like the range of body types of the pirates, while Peach, her big head and enthusiastic mannerisms popping up on every page, is joined by a group of dark-haired, light-skinned heroes who are all very similar in appearance. Purple, green, and pink hues predominate, but most of the landscape has the same vaguely jungle-like appearance. Peach supposedly grows and matures throughout the story, going from a child leaving home on the first page, to an abrupt romantic ending on the last page, but the only change in her appearance is her hair cut, which she cuts early in the story in a “I’ll show them all” scene. The art is blurred in several places, at some points seeming to be a device to show a flashback, in others it appears to be a printing or production error.
There are multiple issues in this stereotyped adventure. The most noticeable are the almost constant typos, grammatical errors, and clunky dialogue which appears not to have been either edited or proofread. The story itself is a confusing mix of abrupt twists and turns, partially-explained plot points, and uneven pacing. Stereotypes abound, both in the art and character descriptions, and the sudden introduction of romance at the end finishes off a confusing, poorly written, and unsatisfying story. This might have found an audience ten or more years ago, when there were fewer comic options for young readers, but with the plethora of well-written and illustrated creations available now there is no reason to purchase this for a school or public library.
Peach and the Isle of Monsters By Franco Aureliani Art by Agnes Garbowska Action Lab, 2022 ISBN: 9781632291721
In a story told mostly through a series of flashbacks, Miranda’s world is revealed to be a massive multiverse connected through major storms that pop up suddenly and are known to be able to destroy the host world. Believed to be the last of her kind, Miranda is hops between worlds, hoping to find her parents after they got separated from her while trying to leave their universe during a destructive maelstrom. As Miranda learns how to survive on her own in a universe with water for wind and giant wolves, she finds a new family of shark dogs that help her. When one of the pups, Noodles, gets swept up in a storm, Miranda goes with him, starting her on her world-hopping adventure.
Normally, I’m not a fan of changing artists for each issue in a connected story, but in a multiverse tale it works really well as a way of differentiating and emphasizing certain characteristics of each world and the characters that live there. The colors are especially important, helping readers identify recurring characters. The individual issues hold enough story to stand on their own, while also weaving together overarching story threads.
Teenage patrons who are fascinated by Marvel’s multiverse will probably enjoy this new offering the most, especially if they like a well-rounded female lead. Patrons who enjoy sci-fi adventures will likely pick this one up as well.
Miranda in the Maelstrom, Vol. 1 By Riley Dashiell Biehl Art by Koi Carreon, Dailen Ogden, Jamie Jones, Drew Moss Action Lab, 2021 ISBN: 9781632296054
Adrienne Ashe never wanted to be a princess. She hates fancy dinners, is uncomfortable in lavish dresses, and has never wanted to wait on someone else to save her. However, on the night of her 16th-birthday, her parents, the King and Queen, locked her away in a tower guarded by a dragon to await the rescue of some handsome prince. Now Adrienne has decided to take matters into her own hands!
Princeless By Jeremy Whitley Art By M. Goodwin Emily Martin ISBN: 9781939352545 Action Lab, 2012 NFNT Age Recommendation: Tween (10-13)
Adrienne Ashe never wanted to be a princess. She hates fancy dinners, is uncomfortable in lavish dresses, and has never wanted to wait on someone else to save her. However, on the night of her 16th-birthday, her parents, the King and Queen, locked her away in a tower guarded by a dragon to await the rescue of some handsome prince. Now Adrienne has decided to take matters into her own hands! (Publisher Description)
Princeless By Jeremy Whitley Art by M. Goodwin Emily Martin ISBN: 9781939352545 Action Lab, 2012 NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11)
Carmine, named for the colorant derived from the bug and House she will soon lead, is learning just how dark the world of the Cochineal House can be. Other family’s drama might involve arguments or cold silence, while hers involves people’s lives and family member’s painful deaths. The question is if Carmine can figure out the root of the problem before this family feud destroys them all.
This comic certainly keeps the title and its connotations close; much of the color palette in Carmine relies on splashes of red for accent against mostly muted greys and blacks. There aren’t really any blues in the comic aside from some small details. And yes, there’s plenty of blood. Otherwise, the art is simple, bordering on plain in some panels for the lack of detail or interest in backgrounds. The structure of panels on the page sometimes added to confusion rather than helping move the story forward, though others are nicely dynamic. I think it was purposeful, but there’s three characters that are almost identical, making it hard to tell them apart when more than one is in the same scene.
Unfortunately, the plot was more muddied than bloody. I found dialogue often hard to follow, like there were pieces of conversation missing that I was expected to already know, but was never filled in on. It also leaned heavily on aphorisms, which didn’t help the feeling of disjointed text when one person states a saying and then the next person replies in another saying. The characters mention terms and never define them, such as the rules of the House, what a Guardian is and does, what the seals really are and what they do, and what being queen means. Though Carmine is technically the protagonist, she isn’t actually in a whole lot of the comic, and affects the plot herself very rarely. It’s almost as if she’s a priceless object that’s very important to everyone else.
Definitely some content warnings here: discussions of rape, possible sex trafficking, a fair amount of male and female nudity including male genitalia, and facial mutilation. We have a character who is described as 17-ish, who has been used as a prostitute and had her face destroyed by her employer, possibly owner, so that no one could take her from him. Threats of rape are used by a few characters in different ways, and one character’s genitals are cut off (off page) then later placed on a table next to his head. Otherwise, there is really very little gore, just some blood.
The concept of Carmine was compelling, especially because I feel there aren’t a ton of urban fantasy comics out there not directly tied to existing franchises like Mercy Thompson or Dresden Files. And for readers of those, this might still be interesting enough to pick up, but I had trouble keeping up with what was going on, which made it hard to care about anyone by the end. Otherwise, I can’t say that I recommend adding this comic to a library collection, as I don’t feel it has enough of a story or visuals to make up for the shortcomings.
Carmine vol. 1 Review 01 By Colleen Douglas Art by Alvaro Sarraseca ISBN: 9781632296030 Action Lab Entertainment, 2020 Publisher Age Rating: Mature Series ISBNS and Order
Title Details and Representation NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)