52 Pick-Up Week 45:
C.S. Lewis, Lloyd Alexander, and Susan Cooper are three of my favorite authors of all time. You no doubt recognize the first name for the classic Chronicles of Narnia, but Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain and Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising are similarly themed series outlining the mystical battles between good and evil. I’ve loved all three series and for as little as I read prose, I’ve reread each numerous times over the course of my life. They’ve also greatly influenced my own creative writing. What I hope to do one day is take the basic fantasy framework set forth in those books and adapt it to fit within the world of comics. It seems Von Allan has sought to do the same.
Stargazer has an implicitly Narnian feel to it as three children are whisked away via a magical Artifact to an unknown world. Here, the friends must find the strength to explore the world around them, with no way of knowing how or when they’ll ever make their way back. As a premise for a story, it’s not a bad one, but the execution – in comic book form – falls a little flat. Von Allan’s art is pleasantly simple and appropriate for the all ages tone of this story. The problem, however, stems from the very nature of the comic book medium stifling the reader’s imagination. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE comic books. But the beauty of most fantastical children’s books is that they allow the child to create the fantasy world in their own mind. Even a picture book only gives the child glimpses of the story, allowing them to fill in the blanks. Here, however, Von Allan paints the whole picture and the reader is robbed of the chance to envision the world and its inhabitants for themselves.
The story itself is great, mind you. Marni is suffering from the loss of her grandmother, who may also have been her best friend. After a few pages of her parents own stumbling efforts to deal with the inherent grief, Marni’s dad suggests she invite friends Elora and Sophie over for a camp out. It’s a great set up and the dialog between the girls is a perfect blend of whimsy and wisdom beyond their years. Mind you, each girl having a favorite thing passed down from a grandparent – and that thing subsequently becoming a somewhat important part of their journey – does seem a bit forced.
Once they’ve been transported to the mystical world in which the latter half of the issue takes place, the girls’ voices continue to ring true – mixing apprehension with a thirst for adventure. The girls may seem to come around to their new surrounding a bit too quickly, but their unease at not knowing where they are or how to get home resurfaces throughout the tale. It reminds us of how easily children can become wrapped up in the moment and forget the more pressing issues that may trouble them.
Eventually, Marni begins to encounter shadow figures that seem to represent both her and her Granny. Where this aspect of the story is heading is anybody’s guess. I’ve yet to be able to figure it out, and it simply makes me anxious for the next chapter and the answers therein.
The simple fact is that it’s the emotion that drives this book. The wonderment at the world in which the girls find themselves may suffer somewhat given Von Allan’s simple linework, but it’s that same simplicity that highlights the youth and naivete of the children and which makes them such empathetic characters.
Stargazer Vol. 1 gets 3.5 out of 5 mute robots
The girls’ voices here ring true, making this book a great read for children of all ages, especially any who have suffered loss. Still, the “mystery” regarding the world in which the girls find themselves seems a bit out of place – by this point, it feels like they should have encountered someone who could have filled them in, at least a little, on their surroundings. Still… volume two may explain everything and make Von Allan’s motivation to keep the girls in the dark perfectly clear. Time will tell.