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I Hate Fairyland is Marvel veteran Skottie Young’s first creator owned title for Image Comics. Our Cody Tomler is here to give us the sugar coated scoop.
I Hate Fairyland is the tale of one little girl’s romp through a magical kingdom of fairies and magic, neither of which are all they’re cracked up to be. I Hate Fairyland acts as a 23 page hate letter from Skottie Young to every bedtime story under the sun, and maybe a few that don’t exist yet. Young has created a world that’s Candyland meets Natural Born Killers, and while the hyper violence might turn some away the absurdity of it has earned it a ComiConverse review!
I Hate Fairyland opens like a fair number of fairy tales do, with a young girl wishing her way into a magical realm. The only difference being that our heroine Gertrude was sucked in rather violently and crashed face first into Fairyland, breaking an arm and some teeth in the process. As soon as Gertrude arrives she wants a way home. Luckily for her, the kind queen Cloudia informs her that a way home is but a simple quest away! She gives her a magic bug and a magic map, standard for any such quest. The only hang-up is that Gertrude isn’t particularly good at quests and instead of the two shakes of a bogglezig (or about a day for those of you who left your fairyland conversion charts at home) that the quest was supposed to take, Gertrude has been stuck in Fairyland for 27 years. While her body doesn’t show it her state of mind certainly does. Despite all hope Gertrude continues on her quest, shooting moons, robbing casinos and eating mushrooms in the process. But Queen Cloudia has grown more than a little tired of Fairyland’s rude guest.
Few comics start off as explosively as I Hate Fairyland. The very first page has the main character, Gertrude, getting sucked into a different dimension, the second page has her falling through a hole of nothingness, and the third page has her crashing into Fairyland and breaking her face and arm in the process. Two pages later she is introduced to the kingdom and is off on a life altering adventure. This breakneck pace makes the first few pages of I Hate Fairyland an absolute joy to read, the pace of the story perfectly matches the hectic energy that Skottie Young’s saccharine-coated drawing brings to the book. However the intro sets a fast-paced, intriguing precedent that the rest of the comic fails to live up to, which inevitably leaves the reader wanting more.
Leaving the readers hungry for more is one of the primary weaknesses throughout the remainder of the book. With 19 pages left after the plot gets set up one would assume that I Hate Fairyland has ample time to flesh out its characters and world in the first issue, yet Young doesn’t capitalize on this time to flesh out Gertrude or Larrigon (her bug companion) into interesting characters. Instead, Young starts us out 27 years after they set out on their quest, when madness has already set in.
This gap is the single largest failing in the book. In almost any story the journey of the protagonist is what the reader is getting into the book for, their rise and fall, their triumph and torment, the events and circumstances that lead to them becoming who they are. A character’s descent into madness can be just as rewarding to the reader as watching a weakling become a hero. Gertrude spent 27 years transforming from a sweet little girl into a murderous psychopath with no remorse. While this jump in time allows Young to skip the sticky wicket that is having characters grow as people, for better or worse, denying the reader the ability to see why Gertrude hates Fairyland so much does the book no favors in the long run. It also establishes the thought in our mind that perhaps Gertrude is bad at adventuring and her current situation is her own fault, which is supported by her wasting half the issue robbing a casino and getting caught.
Yet a failure to flesh out Gertrude into a real character is not the only failure in the writing of I Hate Fairyland. Young also fails to paint the citizens in Fairyland in a negative enough light. While it might seem odd to cite making characters too likable as a flaw in the book, the very nature of the book demands it. Young has stated in interviews that the inspiration for I Hate Fairyland came from him thinking that kids should want to kill the annoying creatures of fairy tales. A simple premise that suggests a world of possibilities, many of which Young used in this book, yet one that needs careful planning to pull off correctly. One of the main things that needs to be done is to make your audience not care about victims of the ultra-violence the main character rains down upon them.
However, despite Young and Gertrude’s insistence that the inhabitants of Fairyland are annoying enough to kill indiscriminately, they are shown to be quite cheerful and helpful towards Gertrude, except when she is killing them. While this might seem like a pretty minor complaint it completely changes the nature of the book when your main character, who is supposed to be justified in killing her targets, loses their credibility and seems to kill for no reason. It turns a book from enjoyable hyperviolence with a story of one girl being driven mad to a self-gratifying book where Skottie Young gets his jollies killing things that annoy him. Gertrude’s actions also make Queen Cloudia’s decision to hire a man to kill Gertrude really justified, and one can certainly see her position and one can almost root for the citizens of Fairyland against such a vicious girl.
The writing in I Hate Fairyland is not without its positives though. Gertrude can be quick with a joke sometimes and Young does raise a good point about riddles and how annoying they can be. Larrigon and his hatred for what his life has become can strike some very funny tones similar to Squidward in early seasons of Spongebob. These moments are fortunately quite common and they can squeeze a chuckle out of the reader much more easily than the image of Gertrude blowing up the moon.
However, the ups and downs of the writing might be of little concern to some, as the main appeal of any book with Skottie Young’s name on the cover will always be the art and on that front Young does not disappoint. For many years of his career Young has been assigned to books that attempt a family friendly feel, from the Oz series to AvX Babies. Young’s knack for big heads, googly eyes and wide grins has earned him the love of many comic book fans, young and old. I Hate Fairyland allows him to put his finely honed skills at drawing kids books to an entirely different use, the dismantling of the genre he is the master of.
From the first panel of this book Young’s typical energy practically oozes off the page and makes even the most listless of readers perk up. Gertrude’s entire design from her green curls (which apparently have their own bones) to her bright pink dress makes her look like a Disney reject, which is exactly the point. Young makes his gooey slug monsters look like gooey slugs and his fairy queens look exactly as you would picture them. This is a skill that not many artists can bring to a book; art as stylized as Young’s adds an important level to the book. Looking like a fairy tale book for kids simply makes the entire book more believable.
The benefits of Young’s art don’t end there however, as his love of blood, guts, and gore explodes to the surface of this book. In case it hasn’t been clear throughout this review, I Hate Fairyland is an incredibly violent book and Young has a way of simply making it work with his art style. In fact the juxtaposition of the blood and guts that get spilled in the name of Gertrude’s revenge makes for a very unique experience. Young also has great skill in making action sequences have real energy and suspense in them. There is one particular moment where Gertrude uses a giant slug gangster’s (who has ‘Slug Life’ across his belly in what can only be described as the best visual gag in the book) own bling to choke him, just like Princess Leia did to Jabba the Hutt all those years ago. The slug’s eyes bulge as the chain is twisted and Gertrude grits her teeth; it looks and feels exactly as if you were watching that scene play out in real life, which is really the standard that all action scenes should live up to. To come and stay for the art in this book would be perfectly justified.
As an entire package I Hate Fairyland is a book with near endless potential. Dark secrets may be waiting to be discovered in this veritable wonderland and we might end up learning about what exactly made Gertrude the way that she is. The people in Fairyland may be revealed to be horrible monsters worthy of death and perhaps the story may even end with Gertrude learning something about herself just before she goes home, the way a real fairy tale would end. Yet as it stands right now issue #1 lacks a lot of the necessary components that this story needs to work; it feels like the pilot episode for a tv show rather than the first full fledged episode. If you are a Young fan like myself you will likely keep reading for the art and to see where the story goes, but if you have no prior love for Young then there may not be much for you in Fairyland.
Cody Tomler is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Dashly
Come for the art, hope the writing catches up
Skottie Young has always brought vibrancy and energy to the comics he works on, whether it be babies fighting other babies or a little girls journey through Oz. I Hate Fairyland has the same amazing art you can come to expect but the writing is lacking in a lot of key areas.