Monday, May 11, 2020

Comics Rec: Snow, Glass, Apples (Gaiman/ Doran)

Every once in a while you read a comic that you know is just going to stick with you for a long, long time.

Novelist Neil Gaiman of course broke into the public consciousness through Sandman, the perennially popular comic series that, frankly, got me back into comics when I'd wandered off to spend my money elsewhere.  What we don't talk about nearly enough is that, in addition to Gaiman's scripts and plots, he was paired with some of the finest artists to grace the business (you can thank editor Karen Berger), among them Colleen Doran.

Last year Doran adapted Gaiman's story Snow, Glass, Apples, a version of the Snow White fable we know from Disney and through any other variety of media.  Told from the Queen's perspective (an unreliable one at that), the story becomes one of creeping horror, our virginal heroine of the Disney story something else entirely.

And, my god, Colleen Doran's art in this thing...

This is what she's putting out after decades in the business - some of the finest art on the comics page in years, each page a masterfully constructed work evoking Art Nouveau and the rich book illustration of a century back.  Like some of her Sandman-era contemporaries (see P. Craig Russell) Doran found a new level at which to work, free from trends on the comics page, instead she's delivering a masters class on form and function in meshing sequential art with design and illustration.  There are certainly others who attempt to do similar things, with varying levels of success, but this book is going to be the bar for a long time. 

Every page of this book (which is truly a graphic novel in the terms Eisner intended) works on this level, a dreamscape of images, flowing into one another, the text blocks placed just so to tie it all together and drive the eye in the right direction.  But slowing down to take in each page is as rewarding with this book as any I've seen in years.  There's genuine character and emotion captured in the frieze of each page, agony, lust, horror, not just in the often placid expressions but in the context and colors. 

It's a reminder from one of the best that comics art can do more than we often see, that for every artist shouting that the artist is *also* a storyteller, sometimes an artist comes along and proves the absolute truth of this statement - that their work is overpoweringly as important to the story as what the script dictated. 

From her own notes in the backmatter of the book, Doran discusses creating the book in the frank terms you get to know if you follow her online, and discussions regarding coloring, etc... are there for you see. 

Anyway - I'll be keeping this one on the coffee table, and hoping Dark Horse does the right thing and reprints this on folio-sized pages. 

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