Originally a Kickstarter-exclusive graphic novel, Boom! is now serializing Paul Jenkins and Humberto Ramos’s short graphic novel Fairy Quest — or, in this case, “Fairy Quest” — into a two issue miniseries. Emphasis on mini.
Written by Paul Jenkins
Illustrated by Humberto Ramos
The world of Fablewood, where all of the stories that have ever been told live side-by- side, is a sinister place indeed! Under the watchful eye of the dreaded Mister Grimm and his Think Police, Red Riding Hood and her Wolf must risk everything to try and escape and find sanctuary in a mysterious place called the Real World… Written by industry legend Paul Jenkins (SENTRY, DEATHMATCH) and drawn by comics superstar Humberto Ramos (AMAZING SPIDER-MAN), the smash Kickstarter with product details success story, FAIRY QUEST, is now available in single issue format for the first time!
Stories about stories are hardly anything new, and are commonplace in comics — “Sandman,” “The Unwritten,” and “Fables” come to mind with only a moment’s thought. Paul Jenkins and Humberto Ramos have brought the concept to all-ages comics, and have taken a rather interesting look at it. The world of “Fairy Quest” is fairy tale viewed from a very confined perspective: fairy tales, known for their many, many iterations are reduced, by the controlling Grimm, to being this way and no other, with rebellious off-scripters being forced into the “Mind Eraser” which will set them back on the right path. It’s a pretty extreme reading of the evolution of fairy stories, but it makes sense; while some details of Cinderella’s tale or that or Jack and the Beanstalk may shift with every re-telling, there are always certain things that “have” to happen. Even though these essentials are also prone to changing over time, if you tell a Cinderella story without the glass slipper, or a Jack story where the castle in the clouds is filled with treasures he can take without any fee-ing, fi-ing, fo-ing, or fum-ing, then you are supposedly doing it “wrong.” By portraying the way many view stories as authoritarian, Jenkins and Ramos have made a story that can certainly lead to some interesting creative thinking, regardless of the reader’s age, without coming off as too heavy for an all-ages book.
Jenkins’ script has a few clever moments: “the nights are always dark and stormy so that goblin tales may be told” and “Lived in a Shoe, Old Woman Who!” are individual lines that any children’s author would be jealous of, and the opening segment’s multiple voices are well executed (and are greatly enhanced by the delightful work of letterer/colorist Leonardo Olea). The very first scene starts off very well, too; Jenkins makes sure too get the beats just right so that the reader is convinced until the revelatory two panels that this is just another standard Red Riding Hood retelling, despite logic insisting it couldn’t be, due to the issue’s length. The issue’s biggest weakness, though, is one that is typical in all-ages works, especially those written by writers who regularly write for adults — it’s too simple. Jenkins’ dialogue underestimates the child reader, spelling things out far too much and relying heavily on twists on tired terms such as “think police.” Children are far smarter than most adults give them credit for, and can spot a cliche a mile away. The name of the primary antagonist, Grimm, is a great example — there does not seem to be any reason to name this character this way other than for simple name recognition, and it is incredibly transparent. While the story itself is pretty unique in its concept for an all-ages book, Jenkins’ rather elementary dialogue makes it lose some of its sheen, though it still has its moments.
While I have frequently come forth and admitted to not being a fan of Humberto Ramos’s art on a personal level, I can certainly understand why many critics like him. His work on, for instance, “The Amazing Spider-Man,” is incredibly fluid and easy to read, making him an objectively great artist, strictly speaking in terms of sequential storytelling — which, let’s be honest, is what is most important when it comes to comics. The art in “Fairy Quest,” while still being unmistakably Ramos, has a much softer feel than his mainstream comics work, with thinner lines and more of an emphasis on pencils (unless that’s merely the effect of Oleo’s excellent coloring). The resulting style is pitch-perfect for a fairy tale book like this one. Sure, his sometimes annoyingly over-expressive tendency when it comes to faces rears its head every now and then, but for the most part, this comic has a very charming look. There’s bad news, though: that fluidity that won over even grumps like myself who otherwise wouldn’t be interested in his work is significantly less pronounced in this comic. There’s still a energetic quality to his art that helps bring each individual panel to life, but less of an emphasis on panel-by-panel storytelling; whether this is the result of Ramos merely sticking too strictly to Jenkins’ script, or whether he simply didn’t choose the best placement for his actors and objects in relation to the whole, we might never know.
While the concept behind “Fairy Quest” is much more interesting than its bland name might suggest, it doesn’t quite hit all the bases. Despite its experimentation, Jenkins unintentionally dulls the book’s edge, and even though Ramos’s art is in top shape stylistically, he has let his usually honed sense of dynamic motion fall on the wayside. Still, while many all-ages books are fine with treading water, Jenkins and Ramos are trying to push the envelope, and even if the landing hasn’t quite stuck, it is an admirable effort.
Final Verdict: 6.0 – Browse and pick it up if you know someone who would like it.
Intentional or not, you have to give the comic credit for being able to work without a hitch as a single issue, despite being half of a graphic novel.