By Skottie Young & Jean-Francois Beaulieu
Oh fluff me, Gert’s back.
Gert, the heroine of Skottie Young’s excellent I Hate Fairyland, has a bit of a temper problem. Now considering that she has spent years stuck in the fantastically infuriating realms of Fairyland with little of hope of returning home, frustration is understandable. It is doubly understandable when the reader remembers that she ceased growing a while back, leaving her with an adult mind in a child’s body. So yes, you would be upset as well. Problem is Gert is not too good at the whole anger management thing. She favors a disembowel first, do not bother with any ####### questions later approach. In such a way, she has been cutting a bloody swath through Fairyland and in the process made some questionable decisions. The second arc concluded with her making a spectacularly poor choice which may have doomed not only herself but all of Fairyland. Luckily those consequences have been postponed for a later date, allowing readers more time for enjoying Gert’s twisted, entertaining antics.
The third arc opens with one of the few bright spots in Fairyland for Gert: the annual Dungeon Festexpocon. Satirizing comic conventions might seem like an easy target, especially among knowing fans. (Who hasn’t shoved their way through a crowded show floor thinking “Weapons and grub are not distractions, they’re necessities”?). However, Young keeps the humor brisk and the snark in check. There is a clear affection in his ribbing of the convention experience. Also, it serves the plot instead of simply being a narrative placeholder.
This year Gert is especially excited for the chance to meet her hero, Gwag. Gwag is an imposing cross between a barbarian and a Valkyrie, all brawn and attitude. In other words, a natural fit for Gert’s role model. Problem is Gwag does not seem receptive to Gert’s enthusiasm, particularly after the slighted Gert severs the tongues of Gwag’s minders. Pulling herself out of the (literal) wreckage of her encounter with Gwag, Gert is immediately greeted by a quite discerning sight: her own fandom. Maddie is, ahem, mad about Gert instantly launching into a discourse on Gert’s greatest exploits (and providing some nice exposition for new readers). To the surprise of Gert’s guide/companion/exasperated would-be conscience Larry, Gert takes a shining to Maddie (probably has something to do with all the flattery).
Maddie’s addition to the cast allows for a few gags but more importantly, it teases the possibility of some character growth on the part of Gert. Spending so much time with her protégé drives home for Gert how much of a flip she can be at times. Perhaps she could try being good for a change? Readers who have been around since the beginning will doubt that this change of heart will keep (or even if they would want it to), however the idea of watching Gert try not to automatically slice and dice all comers should prove pretty entertaining. Fairyland is a series that could have easily fallen into rote repetition (“oh look, Gert did something bloody disgusting again”), yet remains fresh. One reason for this is the quality of the gags (some issues are worth the cover price just for Gert and Larry’s squabbling). One is how deftly Young varies the narrative so that Gert’s story seems to keep moving forward even if she never actually makes much progress in her quest to return home.
Another key component of the series’ success is Young’s stellar art. Ever since he first made his name illustrating Marvel’s Oz comics, Young has been known for his playful cartoony style. This aspect of his work is at the forefront of the Festexpocon sequence. There is a fantastic double-page spread depicting the activity of the show floor. The types will be familiar to anyone who has attended a con, even if the details are on the more fantastical side. The image is full of assorted wizards, witches, monsters, knights, imps and all manner of creatures. The visual imagination is quite stunning. In addition, there is a sense of energy, matching the hectic flow of convention crowds. This liveliness is accentuated by Jean-Francois Beaulieu’s bright, eye-catching coloring. Young’s art also contains a very expressive element which plays a vital role in communicating the humor. Some of the best gags are visual, such as Gert’s double-take when Larry informs her that Santa Clause is real. (Setting up a Very Special Fairyland Christmas Special for down the line, huh?).
The best comics blend stories and art into a seamless whole. This is equally true for narratives serious (such as last week’s installment of Mirror) and silly. Both books are products of their creators’ distinctive visions. In the case of I Hate Fairyland, that vision is a delightful romp through a demented imagination. May Gert’s fluffin’ hopeless quest continue for the foreseeable future . . .