When it comes to fairy tales and children’s stories many of them are much more disturbing than you remember. Orphaned children, kidnappings, murder…these are all things you frequently see and it’s quite traumatic stuff. I bring this up because Magnetic Press’ latest book looks like it’s for kids, but maybe not based on its material. No matter its audience, is the thing worth reading?
A Glance Backward (Magnetic Press)
The synopsis reads:
Eleven-year-old Joey’s world turns inside-out when he finds himself pulled inside the walls of his own home, seemingly trapped in a strange and surreal place. As he searches for a way out, he discovers a myriad of strange, intriguing, and frightening characters, who ultimately lead him to complete the greatest journey of them all: growing up.
Sounds like the stuff Alice in Wonderland is made of!
Why does this book matter?
Artist Tony Sandoval was recently nominated for an Eisner in 2015, so it goes without saying the guy is not only unique, but very good at what he does. Plus, who doesn’t like to fall down a nice fairy tale rabbit hole?
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This book is creepy as hell. Writer Pierre Paquet clearly has a bit of a demented mind as he takes our protagonist through some hellish imaginary places. Or I at least think it’s imaginary. Without spoiling anything, Paquet explores something that’s meaningful to the protagonist and it’s not till the end that you discover it. Much like many children’s stories before it, there’s loss and pain involved in the magical places our protagonist goes.
Locales like mermaid-laden underwater scenes, odd top hat-wearing strangers angry and upset, and even a world made of a giant puzzle are explored here. They are at once interesting and disturbing. I can’t say this is a book for younger children, but teenagers will most likely enjoy its Tim Burton-esque twisted nature. This twistedness does get pretty dark and gory by the time we reach the book’s end, but in a sense this gore is reflective of the pain our protagonist is in.
He draws them in their gloriously bulbous bodies nicely too. Really all the art is great in this issue. It’s actually somewhat obvious it was originally drawn 15 years ago as the look and feel bring you back. Considering the digital advances in drawing since then, it makes sense he would want to redo the series.
The art by Sandoval is reminiscent of James and the Giant Peach with the protagonist’s beady eyes and the darker color palette. I was often in awe of single panels, let alone entire pages as there’s a lot of detail and emotional energy delivered in every single facial expression. Similar to claymation, it has an otherworldly feel that’s much more realistic and believable as a cartoon or computer animated film. If you enjoy morose, dark artwork, you’ll love this.
Look at those teeth!
It can’t be perfect can it?
The story does feel as though it meanders a bit. Of course, that’s part of the charm of fairy tales, but once you reach the end of the story you’ll wonder what some of the sequences meant and if they were really necessary. The darker tone also goes a bit overboard at times and is almost too disturbing. This might be in part because there are moments that are shockingly out of left field. It makes one wonder if they were inserted for shock value or if we are supposed to find a deeper meaning within them.
Who is that man?
Is It Good?
Dark, disturbed and wildly bizarre reading that any Tim Burton fan should love. It makes you think too, and while I’m still at a loss for some of its meaning it’s rare these days to find a book that makes you think.