Thursday, November 19, 2015

Four-Color Fairy Tales: Grimm Fairy Tales.

I’ve been putting it off and putting it off.  But I knew I’d eventually have to review some of this series.

The series in question is Zenescope’s Grimm Fairy Tales.  Fairy tales have been in vogue with comic book publishers for a while now and sometimes it seems like every comic book company has one fairy tale derived series that it has to try out (DC=Fables, Marvel=X-Men Fairy Tales, Boom Studios=Fairy Quest, etc).  However, for Zenescope, Grimm Fairy Tales seems to be the end all and be all.  There will be weeks when it seems like Grimm Fairy Tales and Grimm Fairy Tales spinoffs are the only things being published by that company.

So, if Grimm Fairy Tales is such a success for Zenescope, why would I be reluctant to review it?  Well, let’s look at the cover of the collection I purchased for this review:

That’s right, we’ve got Little Red Bikini Hood here.

Most of the covers of Grimm Fairy Tales comics have those sorts of cheesecake covers with women showing off significant amounts of leg and cleavage.  As I understand it, many are drawn by Brazilian artist Al Rio who has become famous for that sort of thing.

Now I enjoy sexy pictures as much as the next heterosexual adult male, but these covers just make the series come across as crass.  However, I gritted my teeth and decided to give the first volume a try.

The premise of the book seems to basically be that a series of largely unconnected individuals are having problems in their lives and need guidance.  When they’re at their lowest point they either encounter a mysterious storyteller or a mysterious book and either hear or read a fairy tale.  The person is then seemingly transported into the tale where they become the main character.  However, the tales are not like the versions most people know or even like the darker versions that have been written down.  They’re all turned into dark, horrific cautionary tales of terror.  The person then reawakens in the real world having learned a lesson, believing the whole thing to have some kind of dream.  Though, it’s quite possible that it’s not.

There are six stories in this volume.  They are “Red Riding Hood”, “Cinderella”, “Hansel & Gretel”, “Rumpelstiltskin”, “Sleeping Beauty” and “Robber Bridegroom”.  I will say that the art on the interior isn’t as salacious as the cover art, though it’s not quite as good.  There are times when the art just feels kind of sloppy.  The writing is decent, if a bit heavy-handed.  Certain stories fall flat for me.  “Cinderella” is a good example.  The whole thing feels like a mash-up of the Perrault (or Disney) version and the Grimm version with a revenge plot twist and a more sinister fairy godmother.  If it’s Grimm they’re going for, they remembered the part about birds coming down to peck the eyes out for the stepsisters but not that she got the dress and shoes from a tree rather than a fairy godmother.  Most likely they’re trying to evoke what people remember best about the story, right down to having ghostly voices calling her “Cinderelly” like the mice in the Disney movie.  The story that probably works best is “The Robber Bridegroom” and that story was always dark and creepy.
Overall, between the sex appeal of the covers and the violent horror that lurks between them, the basic idea behind Grimm Fairy Tales seems to be depicting fairy tales as something akin to a grindhouse horror film but with an extra helping of fable and cautionary tale.  It’s not a bad approach and it certainly has its fans.  However, personally, it’s not something I’d go out of my way for.  Just as I’ve long been resistant to the idea that all fairy tales are simple fluff for children, I’m just as resistant to the idea that they’re all horror stories at their heart.

Fairy tales are simple stories with a complex identity.  I see many people trying to pin down what they are whether it’s as children’s stories, remnants of old mythology, horrific cautionary tales or just simple entertainment, but I don’t think any of them are right.  At the same time, I think that all of them are right.  I’m of the opinion that the generations that created many of the fairy tales we know didn’t play the genre game or the demographic game like modern media does.  I think a fairy tale can be any of these things or more depending on what tale is being told and who the audience is.

So, personally, I think I’ll skip volume two of Grimm Fairy Tales.  It’s just not my thing.  But, if you prefer the horrific and cautionary side of fairy tales, give it a try.  It might be up your alley.

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