Have you ever realised, while watching Looney Tunes or Tom and Jerry, just how relentlessly, unbelievably violent these old cartoons were? Wile E. Coyote would consistently fall from great heights, eyes bulging in fear, leaving a huge smoking crater in the ground where he landed, somehow fighting through the pain enough to hold up a sign for us simply reading “Ouch”. Daffy Duck had his bill repeatedly blown asunder from high powered shotguns. Tom the cat suffered multiple blows to the head each episode, resulting in gigantic tender lumps protruding from his battered skull. This level of gross bodily harm and gratuitous violence was part of the everyday world of these cartoons. But with all the falls, firearms, traps and rolling pin blows, there was no lasting damage. No blood was spilled, no bones broken, no permanent decreased mental function from being in the blast radius of one too many Acme© bomb explosions.
I Hate Fairyland is here to fix that.
I Hate Fairyland #1 kick-starts Skottie Young’s first creator owned project, which he both writes and illustrates. Together with colourist Jean-Francois Beaulieu and letterer Nate Peikos of Blambot, the team seemingly have one mission: to create the cutest, most insanely depraved book they could. So have they succeeded?
The story kicks off by introducing us to Gertrude, a playful young girl who, as most children do at some point, longs to be whisked away to a wonderful, joyous fairy tale land. But when her wish is suddenly and magically granted, Gertrude finds that the experience is not quite as she had imagined. Years later, her endless quest to find her way back home has caused Gertrude to become jaded, bitter, angry and incredibly, violently, resourceful.
I’ll state right now; I Hate Fairyland is absolutely hilarious. I state this before diving into the details of the review because it seeps from every pore of I Hate Fairyland #1, from art to lettering/sound effects to the script and dialogue. Skottie Young has crafted a side-splittingly irreverent take on the traditional fairy tale, creating a world where stars can be shot out of the sky and massacred, mushroom-men are eaten alive and a town called “Las Fungas” teems with gambling and other similarly shady pursuits. If all this sounds a little too “dark and gritty” for a fairy tale, well, you’d be right. But the hysterically irreverent way these aspects are handled, and the sheer sense of whimsy found in witnessing a fairy tale twisted into gleeful depravity is contagious, and the result is an issue that made me laugh out loud at pretty much every page.
Young’s dialogue flows remarkably well, no doubt bolstered by his immense talent at visual storytelling. Full of humour and character, no line seems out of place and no joke seems forced. The main story premise could be considered a little cliché or well tred, but the gloriously inappropriate approach Young takes is enough to make it entertaining and engaging.
As you’d probably expect, I Hate Fairyland #1 is illustrated in Young’s now trademark cutesy, cartoony style, which works wonderfully. There’s an incredible expressive quality to Young’s line work. Environments are vivid and distinctly realised; characters are instilled with an incredible sense of motion and presence, their body language and facial expression bursting with life and emotion. These qualities are what make the gruesome elements of I Hate Fairyland #1 work so well. Rendered realistically, the violence would be overpowering and overtly out of sync with the tone of the rest of the issue, but in Young’s animated and deceptively simple style the over the top violence tips from jarring to hilarious, gelling well with the rest of the book and, oddly enough, providing a cathartic levity to proceedings. Overall, Young has clearly been honing this style as of late, and it really shows in I Hate Fairyland #1.
Beaulieu’s bombastic, striking colour work more than holds its own too, saturating the issue in a myriad of bright colour. Taking the gentle pastels commonly found in fairy tale illustration and cranking up the brightness, Beaulieu’s work fosters an intense, exaggerated tone in I Hate Fairyland #1 and brilliantly conveys the sort of “Fairy Tale on Drugs” tone of the book. The violent moments in I Hate Fairyland #1 in particular give Beaulieu the chance to shine; gruesome deaths and assaults explode with fantastic neons and unnatural tones, textured more intricately than other aspects seemingly to heighten the chaos. This approach helps fully sell the humour, and Beaulieu pulls it off excellently.
Credit must be given too to letterer Nate Piekos. Lettering is usually an invisible art; as the oft quoted phrase goes “If you’re doing it right lettering shouldn’t be noticed at all.” However, much like the premise of I Hate Fairyland itself, Piekos bucks this school of thought, and the result is an incredibly creative show of work that adds a whole new layer to the issue. Playing with the shape if speech bubbles, font, colour and position of words within the bubble, Piekos deftly instils a brilliant sense of expression in the dialogue and conveys an exaggerated, characterful feel similar to the voice acting found in old Looney Tunes cartoons.
As you can probably tell I highly enjoyed I Hate Fairyland. The sense of humour present is fantastic, the art wonderful, and the odd sense of catharsis I felt when I finished the issue was both unexpected and welcome, simultaneously making you feel like a bad person for laughing so much, but not care in the slightest. The entire creative team is clearly incredibly passionate about this book and it shows in spades in the final product. I Hate Fairyland #1 is a fantastic idea executed flawlessly, and a wonderful example of comics. If any of this sounded appealing to you, I would highly recommend checking I Hate Fairyland out.