Thursday, September 29, 2016

Snow White: A Graphic Novel

This is exquisite.  This is the book that you purchase to give as a present to a fairy tale lover, a graphic novel lover, or someone who just wants something beautiful.


I've been a fan of Matt Phelan's work since I first read The Storm in the Barn when it first came out.  His work has a dreamlike quality that blurs the line between fantasy and reality.  However, I admit to having my doubts when I heard that this take on Snow White would be set in the 1930s.  When I think of the 30s, I think Art Deco, with its symetrical geometry and fierce lines.  I think of pencil-thin brows over cupid's-bow lips.  I think of martinis and silk gowns.  I think of shantytowns and skeletal bodies.  I wondered if Phelan could capture the contradictions of the era and tell a fairy tale at the same time.

I promise to never doubt him again.  Phelan incorporates the highly stylized lines of the 1930s into his work, and it's better than anything I've seen him draw.  The play of hard and soft also separates the worlds and the characters: the evil stepmother, a former Ziegfield girl, has a sharp bob, harsh brows, and overdrawn lips.  Samantha White, whose family lost money in the crash, has a softer, gentler look done in Phelan's signature style.

Everything about this retelling was delightful.  Samantha White is a princess of New York high society.  Her father, a kindly businessman, loves her dearly.  But when Samantha's mother succumbs to tuberculosis, her father is lonely.  One night, he sets out I gasped when I saw what the magic mirror had turned into, and I adore Phelan's take on the seven dwarves.  They're a diverse bunch, reflecting the ragamuffins who ran the streets of New York--lost boys all.  But the artistic coup de grâce is the sparing, highly effective use of color.  The majority of the art is black and white, so when Phelan adds a touch of color, it leaps off of the page and makes a point better than any dialogue could.

This is an essential addition to your library shelves, be they personal, public, or school.  Most highly recommended.

5 comments:

  1. This sounds incredible. After reading your review, I went and took a sneak peak at the book on Amazon, and I definitely need to read this. It just sounds so artful and carefully made, I have to read this. Thank you for bringing this to my attention!

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    1. Everything Phelan does is deliberate and somehow fragile, but this is a whole other level of work that I haven't seen from him. I hope you like it!!!

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  2. I may have to wait till this turns up in my local bookshop. Meanwhile, for you I do recommend Sophie Masson's novel Hunter's Moon, which sets the story in an imaginary 19th century European country. "Snow White's" father is the owner of a chain of department stores famous for their fashion, the stepmother is a woman who knows all about fashion and is adored by her stepdaughter till she tries to have her killed and the mirror is The Mirror, a newspaper, which gets up stepmother's nose by declaring that after all the years she has been the Fairest, her teenage stepdaughter is this year's Fairest.

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    1. Ooooh, that sounds fun! The title sounds familiar--I wonder if it's on my enormous TBR??

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  3. Quite possibly. You may have read her Cinderella novel, Moonlight And Ashes, which is set in the same universe and follows Aschenputtel rather than Cendrillon.

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