“Once upon a time…”
These four words cause children to gather around and break out in to fits of imaginative delight. In fairy tales, the darkness is always greeted by the dawn. The hero always prospers, and with the aid of magic, victory is inevitable. What if the presence of the magic being on the road with quest charms comes with a price that makes happily ever after a questionable, deadly sort of finish to a story?
Lee Jeong-A joins the tradition of flipping the classic happy ending on its head in his series Chronicles of the Grim Peddler. Serving up a selection of classic stories in each addition, Grim Peddler just happens to bring himself in to each story to offer up the key to happiness. Be it in a little charm or a little challenge the recipiant will get their hearts desire….at a price. Nothing is ever as it appears in these twisted takes on story classics.
Story: Volume 1 introduces us to Grim Peddler, trying to bring happiness in his own odd way to the fairy tale universe who just doesn’t appreciate his work! (or settle scores as the case may be). The reader gets to enjoy new takes on Sleeping Beauty, Hansel and Gretel, The Little Mermaid, and an original work called The Endless Fairy Tale. Lee Jeong-A’s style features flips utilizing things like bets, conditions, and even murder to set them apart from the norm. All of the primary fairy tale figures receive characterizations that make their emotions, actions, and every thought believable. Grim Peddler himself seems to be a no-nonsense man with a sense of humor that you might describe as dark unhinged. One of the treats of this story are the aspects under which the stories are told. One brief example from the story of Hansel and Gretel finds the children not as helpless during their time of abandonment as one would think children to be. The reason for Sleeping Beauty’s helplessness isn’t just tragic, it’s downright black. Spoilers here will be kept to zero, because if too much is given away here you’ll feel like you didn’t have a chance to enjoy the journey.
Style: Readers will find that manhwa (Korean comics) reads from left to right even when translated in to English. It makes following dialogue from panel to panel easy to do. While the stylistic differences of what makes manwha will be covered later, let’s stop to appreciate the art. The art of graphic novels is one of the best pleasures! The black and white images are still lush enough to need no color. There is a realism to the characters in terms of height that makes the artistic variations on eyes or other facial features we are so used to in the comic genre more proportioned. So many panels in this book need to be made in to cell art for the wall!
Final Thoughts & Grade:With the dark fairy tale making a comeback in recent times, it is hard to find what is original from what is a rehash of the same old attempts to some sort of fashionable goth landscape. Lee is able to communicate a unique and fun vision with his use of Grimm Peddler. A twisted fairy god-father/desire broker makes for reinventing the role of guide for characters and overall narrator. This geek goes hard for fairy tale reinventions because if anything they are a nod to these stories often very dark folk origins. Believe it, friends, The Brother’s Grimm really was no walk through a golden little park. This telling is well done, dark, and loads of twisted fun! The Geeky Chic gives the Grim Peddler an A+.