Castle Waiting, and its sequel, Castle Waiting 2 (Fantagraphics, 2006 and 2011), were originally available as a series of award-winning individual comic books. I’m hopeful that they’ll gain a much-deserved wider reading audience now that the collection has been brought together and republished in two beautifully produced volumes. Beginning with a Sleeping Beauty-like backstory of her cursed birth, the tale extends outward as the hobgoblin-infested castle where Sleeping Beauty grew up becomes a sanctuary for anyone in need. Each of the motley crew at the heart of these tales has sought out the confines of the castle looking for support, friendship, and comfort. They include Jain, a pregnant aristocrat on the run from an arranged marriage; Beakie, a merchant; a horse-headed knight named Sir Destrier; a group of bearded nuns (who were once part of a circus); as well as various other, equally distinctive characters. In the second collection, we continue to learn more about all the appealing characters before they came to Castle Waiting; we also follow their ongoing interactions with one another. The black and white drawings are precisely drawn, with small endearing touches that render each character entirely unique. The dialogue is clever and filled with subtle grace notes of drollness and humor. The set will be especially appealing to readers of all ages who enjoy seeing and reading traditional fairy tale tropes teased and played with, all with a sense of good-humored fun. Once you’ve read them, I know you’ll join those of us who are eagerly awaiting the appearance of Castle Waiting 3.
Category graphic novels
Soon to be graduating with a degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Washington’s ISchool, Andrea Gough took time out from her classes (including mine!) to send me this book review. The book is actually one of my favorites, as well. I hope you enjoy it as much as the two of us did.
In Britten and Brülightly (Metropolitan Books, 2009), Hannah Berry’s graphic novel mystery, Fernández Britten is a depressed private investigator. It seems as though all he does is deliver the information that ruins lives. He’s considering two options: a career change, or suicide. He’s leaning toward suicide. Before he does, however, he’s approached with a new case: a young woman’s fiancée has been found dead, and the police ruled it suicide. She’s convinced that it was murder. Britten and his partner Brülightly decide to take it as one last case, one that Britten hopes will finally provide him the redemption of a positive outcome. While Britten’s outlook is fairly bleak, sparks of wry British wit come courtesy of Britten’s partner Brülightly, who is—did I mention this?—a teabag. It sounds like a deal-breaker, I know, but Berry carries it off flawlessly. Here’s an example of one such exchange, after the client has first called, and Brülightly asks Britten what she seems like:
Britten: Mid-twenties; well-bred; either hard-nosed by nature or as a result of coping with this murder, it’s difficult to say.
Brülightly: Was she alright?
Britten: She seemed quite composed.
Brülightly: That’s not what I meant…
Britten: I know what you meant. Don’t be lecherous: you’re a teabag.
Brülightly: I’m a teabag with needs, Fern.
Flashes of humor aside, Berry has crafted a well-executed, hardboiled mystery. Britten and Brülightly’s search for the truth is labyrinthine and complex enough to satisfy most mystery fans. At the same time, this noir mystery is matched and enhanced by Berry’s atmospheric, nearly atonal painted illustrations. She plays with form, moving away from cartoon-inspired boxy drawings to distinctive illustrations that span an entire page, which both build upon and facilitate the flow of dialogue and action. I don’t read a ton of graphic novels, but if more were like this then I absolutely would. So, if you’re a graphic novel novice or enthusiast, or simply a fan of complex noir mysteries in the style of Dashiell Hammett, definitely give Britten and Brülightly a try.