In this intermediate graphic novel, two goofy dogs go on a silly adventure, falling into fairy tales, getting chased by bees, and having all sorts of adventures along the way.
Tatertoes, a big white dog with orange ears and protruding front teeth, lives with his friend Mr. Schnozzer, a fluffy and mostly responsible terrier with a prominent nose. Tatertoes is trying to entertain himself on a rainy day when Mr. Schnozzer suggests Tatertoes might like to visit the mother he doesn’t remember at the Jingleberry Puppy Farm in the town of Buzzard’s Breath and the two set off.
Along the way they share multiple puns, misunderstandings, fall into quicksand, and nearly get eaten by the Big Bad Wolf. Schnozzer does his best to be patient with Tatertoes, but it’s hard when he packs a yo-yo instead of food, hits a “candy bag” (wasp nest) with a stick, and finds a fluffy “kitty cat” (bear cub). However, they manage to make it to their destination in the end and all ends well.
While the advanced review copy I received was mostly in black and white, there were sample pages of the finished copy in color. The art style has a classic newspaper comic feel with typical cartoon faces – big eyes and tiny pupils, exaggerated features, and a simple palette of colors. There isn’t a lot of background or scenery, mostly the forest the two are traveling through, and the emphasis is on the dogs’ deadpan faces as Tatertoes cluelessly falls into problem after problem, with Schnozzer trying to fix things. Some of the panels are set against backgrounds, but the bulk follow the traditional pattern of simple white borders around each panel with the dialogue mainly consisting of jokes and exclamations while the action moves through the artwork.
This is Stromoski’s first graphic novel and he is primarily a comic strip cartoonist, so it’s no surprise that this shows a lot of the traditional comic strip humor – some of which I found uncomfortable and which makes me question including it in a library collection. Tatertoes has, as previously mentioned, prominent buck teeth and also drops in and out of specific speech patterns and quirky made-up words “I don’t have a remember of my mother” or “I thinks we need to rescue them before they get cooked.” It constantly made me think of outdated humor that specifically pokes fun at people with mental disabilities or specific ethnic groups. On the other hand, they’re dogs, not people. Tatertoes sometimes turns the table on the supposedly more intelligent Schnozzer, like pulling out a pair of compasses instead of a directional compass or telling Schnozzer “You need to work on your articulation” when he hears “no spiders” as “nose spiders”.
This new series is heavily blurbed by popular creators like Patrick McDonnell and Terri Libenson and ultimately librarians will have to decide if they find the humor stereotyped and negative, or if it really is just a pair of dogs being silly and a fun new graphic novel series that will appeal to fans of similar humor. If you decide to pass on this, alternatives would include Pea, Bee, and Jay, Waffles and Pancake, or The Inflatables. However, this will certainly appeal to fans of Jim Benton and similar goofy series like Gustav & Henri, so if you have a lot of requests for super silly comics this might be a good fit for your collection.
Schnozzer & Tatertoes Take a Hike! Vol. 1 By Rick Stromoski Union Square Kids, 2023 ISBN: 9781454948315
The Prophet: A Graphic Novel Adaptation is A. David Lewis’s attempt to translate the groundbreaking work of Kahlil Gibran from 1923 to the graphic novel world of 2023. In the afterword, Lewis says, “In his lifetime, Gibran was known not only as a poet and writer but also as a visual artist and philosopher. From reading his biographies and his notes, I became convinced that a multimodal approach to The Prophet, one that incorporated both word and image, would be entirely in keeping with his legacy.” This is an extremely daunting prospect. For context, The Prophet has been translated into over 100 different languages, it is one of the most translated and best-selling books of all time. The original work is 26 prose poetry fables collected and revised over a number of years which didn’t become a hit overnight, but has slowly grown in popularity and been studied extensively. I know that this was assigned reading for friends in high school, but it was new to me at this reading.
The story opens with an old man sitting on a bluff overlooking the sea. “Almustafa, the chosen and the beloved, who was a dawn unto his own day, had waited twelve years in the city of Orphalese… and he beheld his ship coming with the mist. His joy flew far over the sea. And he closed his eyes and prayed in the silences of his soul.” As he sees the ship approaching their island, he’s overcome with the chance to return home, but also feels deeply how leaving will affect him and others. He has the sailors wait and goes to bid the citizens goodbye, only to have them all ask him to speak on different themes. He’s asked to speak on love, marriage, children, giving, laws, freedom, pain, friendship, prayer, death and more. To all of these he gives long answers in a tone that is both reverential and contemplative.
Credit to artist Justin Rentería for what he accomplished in black and white here. It has been described as, “a 1920’s Ottoman-inspired style”. Lewis says, “Justin and I tried to maintain a semi-timeless feeling for the setting and its citizens: no technology, no jargon, no potential anachronisms. The culture is a mix of several civilizations, not the least of which is Gibran’s own Lebanon.” Rentería accomplishes this and helps deliver a familiar yet foreign world that feels like home for these strange characters. I feel like the art is the strength of this book trying to help paint the picture the words alone can’t.
I can certainly see this book finding a home in high school and college libraries as it tries to find an audience with people who may struggle with the original text. I would undoubtedly have been one of those people, I found this to be incredibly cumbersome and very slow to read. The original text has been described as “heady” and “cerebral,” which feels generous. At 100 years old, I think the accomplishment of the graphic novel is to provide clarity and context that doesn’t exist otherwise as this isn’t conversational or traditional narrative. Framing this story with illustrations and characters we can identify makes it a much more manageable book.
The Prophet: A Graphic Novel Adaptation By A. David Lewis Art by Justin Rentería Graphic Mundi, 2023 ISBN: 9781637790502
Publisher Age Rating: 16+ NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
A dare. A house rumored to be cursed. A doorway that leads… elsewhere. Six classmates. And the things that came back with them from the other side.
Daniel and Emily are tentative friends, both outsiders from the cool crowd at their school. As the story opens, a run-in with four of the popular kids raises tensions and the story soon reveals that each of the six has more going on at home than meets the eye. But it’s Halloween season, a time for fun and thrills. By chance, the six meet up at a ruined home that is the subject of dark rumors and vague fear among the citizens. Trash talking turns to challenges and the six step across that threshold in an effort to prove they are not afraid. But the door is a portal and what they find on the other side is the stuff of nightmares.
Dropped back into reality a short time later, each teenager finds themselves changed. Struggling to understand surprising new abilities and reckoning with the changes to their interpersonal dynamics, the experience is hard enough to process on its own. But something came back with them—something that has its sights set on one of their own, and it doesn’t plan to stop there. From rivals to allies, the lives of their town will soon rest in the hands of these six teens struggling to find their own places in the world.
From Seismic Press and AfterShock Comics, The Darkness We Brought Back is written by Alex Segura and Rex Ogle with art from Joe Eisma and Manuel Puppo. It’s an exciting premise billed as The Chronicles of Narnia meets Stranger Things. Unfortunately, superficial writing and flat characters leave the premise always struggling to find its footing, even until the very last pages. Each of the characters feels plucked from a standard YA school drama and the dialogue is always delivered in the most obvious terms. The plentiful conflicts and disagreements never offer any depth or carry any substantial weight. The insights we gain into these characters’ lives are only the most basic, and even character growth and shifting relationships happen largely in the margins of the story. From a group of young people grappling with coming of age, to a literal fight against a creature from another realm, the story feels largely like an outline of story beats committed to paper before having the chance to be fleshed out in any meaningful way.
The art, at least, is clean and easy to view, reminiscent at times of Paper Girls though with a wider color palate and a style seemingly aimed at a slightly younger readership. Eisma brings us through the bustling hallways of a school, across the threshold of a house barely left standing, into nightmare realms of another existence, and back again. For both the paranormal and the everyday, the art focuses the character emotions as well as the paranormal action that thrusts the story forward. All in all, the visuals are perfectly serviceable for the story being delivered.
AfterShock gives The Darkness We Brought Back an age rating of 13+ and this feels like a perfectly suitable age recommendation. There’s some language, violence, and frightening images throughout, as well as some more intense sequences over the course of the story, but none of this content is particularly lingered on or delivered in graphic detail.
In the end, this title lays out a stronger premise than it delivers. There are so many dynamics at play here that could have gone deeper, allowing the story to be more than a rehash of so many other YA dramas. However, if you have a readership starving for more paranormal YA content in the vein of Stranger Things, this title might be enough to meet that need, at least temporarily. If not, then consider spending your money elsewhere.
The Darkness We Brought Back By Alex Segura, Rex Ogle Art by Joe Eisma Seismic Press, 2023 ISBN: 9781956731279
Publisher Age Rating: 13+ NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)
Garvey’s Choice joins a long line of books adapted as a graphic novel. The original Garvey’s Choice is a novel in verse by Nikki Grimes. Garvey struggles to connect with his dad, who expects him to be someone who he is not. It is told in a series of poems in the Japanese Tanka style. The book which came out in 2016 has been popular with middle grade readers, for good reason. It’s a heartwarming story about finding your voice, and the poetry of Nikki Grimes is poignant and deep while using few words.. I am a huge fan of her writing, and was excited to read this book.
Garvey is a young black boy in a larger body. He loves science fiction, space, and reading, however, his father wants him to play sports. The relationship between father and son is strained. They have a difficult time relating to each other, and in general Garvey struggles with feelings of isolation and loneliness. Over the course of the book, Garvey finds his voice through music, with his friends, and eventually with his family.
The Tanka style is discussed in an author note at the end of both the original book and the graphic novel. It is a format that originated in Japan. Each poem is five lines long, with specific syllable patterns, however, Grimes does not follow the syllable counts exactly. The poetry style which focuses on mood and emotion, fits Garvey’s character arc on his journey to find himself.
Theodore Taylor III illustrates the graphic novel in a bright cartoonish style, similar to that of Jerry Craft’s New Kid. The graphic novel illustrates the characters, plot, and poetic metaphors from the original book, but doesn’t necessarily add much depth to the mood or themes. The best parts of the graphic novel are from the poetry text. And while, I do not think the illustrated format adds much to the story, I do think it is a great purchase for elementary collections, because of the illustrations. Poetry can be an intimidating format for some readers. In condensing text to verse, some context must be implied rather than stated, which can be confusing for some. By illustrating the entire text through the graphic novel format, that context is no longer implied but clearly shown, which can provide a strong scaffold for some readers.
The graphic novel text is fairly similar to Grime’s original verse. There are times that the wording of the poems is adjusted, and they switch up the order of some poems, but for the most part, the text of the graphic novel is very consistent with the book. Lines from the poems are turned into speech bubbles or as narration on the page. Some of the poems are told over the course of a two-page spread, sometimes multiple poems share the spread, but most are confined to one page. The illustrated metaphors add weight to Garvey’s emotional journey.
Notably, a large part of the novel explores Garvey’s relationship with his weight, which is also a source of contention with his dad. But Garvey isn’t illustrated with a body size that is noticeably larger than other characters. He is round, but so is everyone else. I think this is a missed opportunity for body representation.
While not perfect, I think the graphic novel Garvey’s Choice is a strong purchase for elementary collections, especially if novels in verse or books by Grimes are used in the curriculum. In such cases, this graphic novel adaptation could be a good supplement. Either way, Garvey’s Choice is an excellent book and story, whether you read it in the original format or as a graphic novel.
Garvey’s Choice Vol. By Nikki Grimes Art by Theodore Taylor III Wordsong, Astra Publishing House, 2023 ISBN: 9781662660085
Publisher Age Rating: 9-12
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11) Creator Representation: Black, Character Representation: Black,
When I first saw Wolverine: Snikt! I thought I was simply reading the next installment from Viz Media of Marvel characters that were being given their own manga book. I was both right and wrong; this book is a Wolverine story told in magna formatting, but it isn’t new.
Wolverine: Snikt! was originally published by Marvel Comics as a five-issue series way back in 2003. It was part of a Marvel short lived “Tsunami” line of comics that were “manga-style” so they could try and jump on the growing demand for manga in United States. This edition is being formatted by Viz as a traditional manga and it is being labeled a deluxe edition with an introduction from Nick Dragotta (East of West, Fantastic Four) and an art gallery at the end.
On the third page of this book, and with no dialog to tell us why, Logan is pulled into another time by a young mutant girl. She loses track of him in the transfer and he finds himself alone in a dystopian future where a weird biomechanical monster starts to fight him immediately. It has the ability to self-repair and Logan would be lost if not for The Colonel, a man-shaped machine with the only weapon capable of taking down a Mandate. They are running out of ammunition for the gun and they are running out of warriors. Fusa, the girl who brought him here, explains that 11 years ago in 2047 the Mandate attacked and wiped nearly everyone out. It turns out the Mandate itself is a mutant, sort of. It’s a mutant disease that started out as a lab experiment where they hoped to turn a bacteria into a microorganism that would decompose the toxic materials poisoning the Earth. However, once it was outside of the lab environment it couldn’t be contained and it gained sentience. Now, they have to destroy the original Mandate, called Primogenitor, otherwise it will never stop producing more Mandates. You have to destroy a Mandates orb-core to kill it, otherwise it will keep knitting itself back together. By now, you can guess what element will destroy an orb-core and what The Colonel is made out of, Adamantium, making Logan their only hope.
This story is going to be a tough sell to an audience older than tweens and teens. Viz rates this Teen+ for older teens, but I think Teen is fine rating for this. It’s violent, but they are fighting robotic monsters and it is only 136 pages with credits. The story itself is tissue-paper thin and there are no surprises anywhere along the way. A teen reader might give this a pass and enjoy the action, but I found myself mostly disappointed. I appreciate that Tsutomu Nihei had the unenviable task of trying to get the entirety of a story into five issues, but I’ve seen other creators do more with that same task.
The art from Nihei is a lot murkier than his later, much lauded work Knights of Sidonia. That is to say, this art feels like it’s from 2003 and the artist is still evolving. His later work is a lot cleaner, here faces are tough to tell apart and are very sparse on details. Some of the larger vistas that he illustrates show the range of his talent, but Logan hardly looks like the character most comic fans know. Marvel made the choice to have this colored, which probably hinders the work more than it helps. I don’t know that this book is going to make a convert of anyone, but it is hard to deny Wolverine’s appeal and ability to sell books. I think there is certainly an audience out there for this story and there are plenty of teen readers who will enjoy both the manga aesthetic and “otherworld” approach to the storytelling.
Wolverine: Snikt! By Tsutomu Nihei VIZ, 2023 ISBN: 9781974738533
Publisher Age Rating: Teen+(older teen)
NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16) Creator Representation: Japanese,
When people think of space adventure, they may think of series like Star Wars, Star Trek, or perhaps Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. Just like laser guns and faster-than-light travel, storytelling tropes about the exploration of what is out there feel sometimes too familiar, perhaps even cliche, much like the cliche of being stranded on an unknown planet.. That particular trope can seem tired, but Dan McDaid’s science fiction castaway tale Dega attempts to forge its own identity by differentiating itself from such stories, relying more on an unsettling tone instead of whooshing rockets and zipping lasers.
Dega follows the story of the survivor (no name given) of a crashed ship on an alien planet. Her only companion is a small droid who monitors how the planet is changing her. There is a dark secret beneath the planet, one that could help her get home, but will she discover that secret before it’s too late?
Dega is not a long work, but it is an atmospheric one. This is, in part, to McDaid making his protagonist virtually alone. It forces the survivor to carry most of the narrative through her internal monologue and earlier memories. Even the droid’s purpose is merely to provide a sort of countdown (any further details could spoil some major plot points). The story mostly consists of the survivor trying to find her way off planet while avoiding marauding aliens and her own body betraying her.
McDaid’s artwork, which shows some nods to Frank Miller and DC’s Vertigo titles, showcases the bizarre landscape and aliens the survivor encounters and even manages to reveal some of the unreality in the survivor’s experience. Mostly, McDaid uses warmer tans and reds for the desert look of the planet, but he then makes the confusing choice of doing some pages in black and white, which can be a disservice to his imaginative designs, along with their details. McDaid has done art for such sci-fi comics as Doctor Who, Judge Dredd, and Firefly, and the brilliance of that resume shows in these pages.
As to whether libraries should have this particular book in their collection, it might depend on how many of that library’s patrons are hardcore science-fiction fans. It has some beautiful artwork, and it tells a solid mind-bending story, but its short page count means it sacrifices a deeper story for a shallow yet still creepy atmosphere.
Dega Vol. By Dan McDaid Oni Press, 2023 ISBN: 9781637151969
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
In 1852, 400 Chinese laborers in transit to the Americas mutinied against the white ship captain profiting from their transportation. Terrorized by British forces and accused of piracy by British and American courts, the rebels briefly won freedom, but never saw justice. Pairing a short graphic novel with academic essays, The Cargo Rebellion: Those Who Chose Freedom surfaces a buried history of Chinese and South Asian labor exploitation that took place throughout the nineteenth-century colonial world.
Written by academics Jason Chang, Benjamin Barson, and Alexis Dudden and illustrated by Kim Inthavong, The Cargo Rebellion opens with a short comic narrating the historical development of the so-called “coolie trade” that saw Chinese and South Asian indentured laborers transported to the Americas under exploitative conditions that the authors characterize as human trafficking. The Robert Bowne mutiny is briefly recounted, as well as the subsequent international legal battle that pitted American and European systems of imperialism against Chinese efforts to combat trafficking.
The comic provides a clear overview of the political and economic context under which Asian unfree labor proliferated in the nineteenth century. Its text skews academic but is still accessible, elevated by Kim Inthavong’s emotive full-color art. The last pages connect the history of Asian American labor with the contemporary practices of transnational slavery and trafficking. The authors issue a call to action for readers to stand against a system of “racial capitalism” and work toward “a global ethics of de-objectification.”
Following the comic are three academic essays by Dudden, Chang, and Barson: a detailed discussion of the mutiny and its legal aftermath, best practices for teaching Asian indenture in the classroom, and a study of Afro-Asian culture in the United States through the lens of music history. The essays contain valuable information and ideas, but there seems to be a missed opportunity to use the comic format to bring some of this material to life—in particular, details of the mutiny and legal dispute might have added depth to the rebels’ narrative, and historiographical details would help explain why stories like the Robert Bowne mutiny are so hard to reconstruct.
A related pitfall of the essays is that they give the book a scholarly bent that makes it much less accessible to younger readers. High school students are unlikely to persist when they come to the denser academic text. Again, it feels like the graphic novel format is underused, specifically, its potential to draw in a larger audience.
Nevertheless, The Cargo Rebellion stands out as virtually the only publication by a non-academic press about nineteenth-century Asian labor trafficking. Its important subject matter makes this title a good fit for university libraries, as well as general adult nonfiction collections that emphasize Asian and Asian American history and social justice topics.
The Cargo Rebellion: Those Who Chose Freedom By Jason Chang, Benjamin Barson, Alexis Dudden Art by Kim Inthavong PM Press, 2023 ISBN: 9781629639642
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+) Creator Representation: East Asian Character Representation: American, Chinese
Agredios, the margrave’s son, returns from an unsanctioned hunting trip hoping to surprise his family with a plump pheasant for dinner. Unfortunately, he returns to find his family and the rest of the town dead of unnatural causes. In his grief, Agredios rushes into the Forbidden Woods to confront the local witch as he believes she is the cause of all this death. When he finds her, he proceeds to use his magic to attack her. She claims she was not at fault for the town’s misfortune, so they decide to work together to discover the truth and survive.
The two discover a set of twins, Percie and Perla, who are still alive and begin to care for them. Then some villagers from a town over arrive being chased by an enormous fortress bee (best described as a giant bee that is also a hive for a large amount of bees). Agredios is joined by his sister Griamelda and is able to defeat the fortress bee. The family decides to stay for awhile and show the others how to use the bees’ honey, larvae, and bodies to make food to complement the little they have available.
This is an interesting start to a story; however, it is clearly the beginning to something long and involved that may not know where the end is supposed to be. Very little story building is provided for the world at large, including the country’s structure, how magic works, or anything about the witch’s origin. The focus is more on survival skills and immediate actions, which I enjoyed as well as the creatures that were introduced. But at the end of volume one, I was left wanting more information about these characters and the world itself.
While the art style is enjoyable, many of the illustrations are highly detailed to the point of obscurity, especially in panels that portray action sequences. The characters are easy to tell apart, but I didn’t think the action came across that well in black and white. Color definitely would have been helpful for clarity.
With the amount of violence and bodily fluids portrayed (as well as a panty shot on two young children), I wouldn’t be comfortable giving this to anyone under the age of 16. It’s meant for older teens and adult readers. Honestly, you could skip adding this title to your library’s collection unless it is turned into a popular anime.
The Witch and the Knight Will Survive, Vol. 01 By Dai Chikamoto Art by Gonbe Shinkawa Yen Press, 2023 ISBN: 9781975360603
Publisher Age Rating: 16+ NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
How did the universe begin? What happens to stars when they die? Big Bangs and Black Holes: A Graphic Novel Guide to the Universe is a short, fast-paced introduction to the field of cosmology. Presenting the key theories that shape our current understanding of the origin and nature of the universe, this graphic novel captures the wow factor of studying the cosmos and shines light on the complex process of scientific discovery.
Producing a 64-page comic about some of the most mind-bending concepts in science is no mean feat, and writer/illustrator HERJI and physicist Jérémie Francfort present a strong offering. Narrated by cosmologist Celeste Aster and her sidekicks, niece Gabrielle and real-life astrophysicist Michel Mayor, Big Bangs and Black Holes uses a conversational tone to outline three big ideas in cosmology: Einstein’s model of space-time, the Big Bang, and black holes. Playful full-color illustrations pair challenging science concepts with accessible imagery: space-time is a beach towel covered with objects that distort its surface, redshifted cosmic background radiation is pastry being distorted by a rolling pin, and black holes are… well, so strange that the artist doesn’t resort to metaphor, instead presenting images of an astronaut falling past an event horizon and being stretched out in a memorable process known as “spaghettification.”
Big Bangs and Black Holes doesn’t shy from hard concepts, and it embraces as its central message that science is an ongoing journey of discovery. Each chapter details how we know what we know—usually a mix of astronomical observation and fiendishly hard math—and highlights questions that we have yet to resolve, such as the nature of black holes, whether current theories mesh with observations of “dark matter” and “dark energy,” and of course, why the Big Bang happened in the first place. Readers are encouraged to understand science not just as received wisdom, but an evolving body of knowledge they can follow and even, perhaps, participate in. As part of facilitating readers’ ability to see themselves as part of this conversation, the book attempts to be inclusive, despite depicting a field that has historically been dominated by white men. Dr. Aster, a white woman, is accompanied by her niece, a young woman of color, and astronomer Henrietta Leavitt is featured for her discovery of an important method for determining the distance of stars.
Due to its length, Big Bangs and Black Holes doesn’t function as a comprehensive overview of cosmology, but engaged readers will find enough here to guide future learning, and the eye-catching illustrations will serve as a useful aid to understanding the associated physics concepts. That said, this book is such a fast-moving overview of its topic that it may not connect with a wide audience. The jokey tone and illustrations feel most suitable for middle or early high school, but the vocabulary and complex material may be difficult for students of this age. Motivated young readers will have a blast, but science novices may wish this was a longer book with a bit more hand-holding along the way.
It’s not every day that you come across a graphic novel that gets into the nitty-gritty of astrophysics with a young audience in mind. Intelligent, goofy, and executed by an artist who’s mastered the nuts and bolts of illustrating science comics, Big Bangs and Black Holes is worth consideration for nonfiction collections serving young adults.
Big Bangs and Black Holes By HERJI, Francfort Jérémie Art by HERJI Helvetiq, 2023 ISBN: 9783907293751
Publisher Age Rating: 13-17
NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16) Creator Representation: Swiss
Rivers of London is a supernatural horror series that I have been aware of for some time, but never had the chance to read. I recognized the name of the author, Ben Aaronovitch, from Doctor Who and recalled him as the writer of one of the best episodes of all time, “Remembrance of the Daleks.” I finally took the plunge with the graphic novel Deadly Ever After. Unfortunately, Deadly Ever After proved as big a disappointment to me as Dynamite Comics’ adaptations of the Dresden Files.
The Rivers of London series (aka the Peter Grant or PC Grant series) is set in an alternate London where magic is real and a special department called the Folly protect ordinary people from the supernatural. Most of the Rivers of London stories center around newbie wizard Peter Grant as he investigates various crimes and copes with the many gods and monsters that secretly populate London. Deadly Ever After is an entirely different story.
Deadly Ever After centers around two young river goddesses, Chelsea and Olympia, who are easily bored and would rather spend their days smoking weed and hanging out than doing whatever it is respectable goddesses are meant to spend their days doing. Their showing off to a random mortal winds up unleashing a vengeful spirit who was kidnapped by fairies centuries earlier and has returned to an unfamiliar London even more cynical than the one they left behind. This leads to the twins trying desperately to cover up their crime before their mother or the Folly get involved, as the spirit starts trying to make fairy tales come true in order to prove the power of stories and that fairies are real.
The idea of supernatural creatures reenacting fairy tales is one of the most played out tropes in modern fantasy and Deadly Ever After does nothing to change the formula. Any fan of the genre will immediately see where the story is going the minute a little girl in a red hoodie runs out of the woods screaming about something attacking her grandmother. This might be tolerable were the narration of the book not offering a metatextual commentary on the cliches, literally describing Chelsea and Olympia as “feeling like they were in their own detective comic about glamorous teen Londoners.”
The artwork is similarly lackluster. Jose Maria Beroy’s artwork is competent and they have a firm grasp of anatomy. Unfortunately, the artwork doesn’t fit the dark theme of the story, being too posed and static. The bright colors and light inks don’t help matters.
The damnable thing is that Deadly Ever After might cut the mustard as a young adult comic aimed at an audience that is less familiar with this sort of story than the average urban fantasy fan. Unfortunately, the blood and violence are intense enough and the language adult enough to make this book unsuitable for any audience younger than an OT/16+. I fear anyone old enough to handle the content is likely to find the two protagonists insufferably selfish and annoying. I may give Rivers ofLondon another shot, but this volume gave me a very poor impression of the series.
Rivers of London, vol. 10: Deadly Ever After By Celeste Bronfamn, Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel, Art by Jose Beroy Titan, 2023 ISBN: 9781787738591
Related media: Book to Comic
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18) Character Representation: Black