Posted on June 17, 2010 by Monica Valentinelli
Available at Amazon.com
The way that publishers and authors present a fairy tale has always been somewhat interesting to me, because the tales I’ve read are often a mixture of advice, local customs and fantasy. Characters either live happily ever after or they wind up in the midst of a tragic situation they cannot find their way out of. GRIMM FAIRY TALES, published by Zenescope Entertainment, takes a much more traditional view of the fairy tale. (You may recall that Zenescope Entertainment is the same comic publisher that will be producing the CHARMED comic based on the television series.) Zenescope encourage their readers to “enter a world where morality is constantly tested and the shocking repercussions of one’s choices must always be faced.” In this first collection of full color comics, there are six fairy tales to explore: Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Hansel & Gretel, Rumpelstiltskin, Sleeping Beauty and Robber Bridegroom.
Now, if you’re anything like me, you’re probably wondering what can be done with a fairy tale like Cinderella that you could probably recite in your sleep. Here’s where things get interesting: these tales are different. First, these stories are not geared for little kids. While the audience might depend upon the tale, I would say that the stories were written for teens and adults. Second, these stories employ a technique where we begin reading about the characters in their modern-day lives and then, after they encounter a moral dilemma, we are transported to the world of the fairy tale — and back again. I would like to emphasize the word “moral” here, because even though some of the stories may sound as if they are suggesting a particular course of action, there isn’t a strong religious theme in any of the tales. Simply, these characters (both male and female) are faced with a moral choice and the fairy tale allows them to explore the questions that they need to find the answer.
Finally, in Zenescope’s version of GRIMM FAIRY TALES there is a larger narrative at work that you read more about as the series continues. That narrative is part and parcel to how the flashback technique works and is centered upon a book of fairy tales and its keeper. (To tell you any more about that would definitely spoil the series for you, so I’m not going to expand there.)
The tales are pretty dark; if I had to classify them I would say that the stories themselves are dark fantasy and the comic book format lends a little bit of a cinematic, “B” movie feel to them. Although the stories themselves are mired in “doing the right thing” for the main characters, there is a lot of artistically-drawn cleavage for the female characters. For example, the main cover image for this graphic novel has a red riding hood wearing a shiny, red leather get up — which is nothing like the story. Open up GRIMM FAIRY TALES, however, and the interior art employs interesting mixes of sepia tones, calligraphy, oil pastels and comic book style artwork. I find this art direction to be an interesting choice, because I can see that the audience for this series could easily be more women than men. I was a little confused by the sexy images simply because the stories are not sexy. In fact, many of the stories deal with heavy issues like abortion in Rumpelstiltskin or loving someone who doesn’t love you back like in Sleeping Beauty. If I had to venture a guess, I’d probably say that the artwork is there to help lighten the mood a little bit, but I’m not sure.
GRIMM FAIRY TALES by Zenescope Entertainment is definitely one of those graphic novels that you can’t judge by its cover, because the contents are a lot different than what appears on the inside. The stories are all intentional, the characters deal with very contemporary issues, and the narrative works like a glue that holds everything together. I enjoyed reading this graphic novel and feel that it’s definitely a fresh take on a tired body of work.
Review by Monica Valentinelli