In Weirding Willows Vol. 1 Alice of Wonderland is the daughter of Doctor Moreau. Her neighborhood includes the White Rabbit, Farmer McGregor, Peter Rabbit, Badger, and Mole. Frankenstein’s monster pays a visit as do the Wicked Witch of the West, Doctor Jekyll, Mowgli, a pink T-Rex named Rosalind, and one or two other noteworthy people. Alice is also friends with Katar Pylar Tarsus of Barsoom.
If this sounds as though Dave Elliott is having a marvelous time mixing, matching, and retelling just about any late nineteenth to early twentieth century tale he can get his hands on, that’s because he is. Although there is a small story arc involving Frankenstein and his friend, the T-Rex, this first volume is primarily a chance to meet a number of familiar characters in a new, unfamiliar setting and to learn about their backgrounds in this world and showing how the worlds intersect. To this end, the volume also includes an illustrated map of the Weir. There are also short biographies which were previously available only on Elliott’s deviantART page for a number of the major characters. The Weirding Willows folder also has the first portion of the story there as well as a couple of short stories that are not in the volume for those who either want to get some idea of the story ahead of time or to read further.
Elliott enjoys his source material and pulls freely from it. He does not attempt to emulate any of the authors’ styles or to duplicate any one setting exactly. Readers will recognize the characters, but everyone’s speech is thoroughly twenty-first century, and their motives and backgrounds have been considerably enhanced and changed. This is fine as Elliott is telling his own story, but it can take a moment for people expecting the mannered and careful Alice from Alice in Wonderland or the meditative Badger from Wind in the Willows to appear in the book. Once the necessary mental adjustment is made, the tale is fine fun. There is also enough here that someone who is unfamiliar with all or most of the tales should still be able to enjoy the story in its own right.
Barnaby Bagenda and Sami Basri’s playful artwork meshes well with the tale’s mixed-up mashup, showing both the lightness with which Elliott approaches his sources and the darkness of Doctor Moreau’s laboratory (he is a vivisectionist, remember). There is a shift midway between Bagenda’s angular style and Basri’s more rounded look, but both suit the story well. Although the coloring is handled by a number of colorists, it maintains a consistent clear look, reminiscent of watercolor. No, I do not know why Alice is wearing a sexy magician’s outfit on the cover or why she is smirking. In the book itself, she’s far too busy to smirk.
Recommended for those who enjoy playful literary mashups, especially if they enjoy nineteenth century novels and tales and are comfortable with them being retold in twenty-first century idiom. Weirding Willows is out now.
Hardcover, 104 pages
Published: July 1st 2014.
Publisher: Titan Comics
ISBN: 1782760350 (ISBN13: 9781782760351)