Not Just a Fairy Tale

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I freely confess that when I first heard of the then-upcoming series, “Lullaby” my first thought, like that of many others, was that this book was going to be Vertigo’s “Fables” for kids. Not, mind you, that such a thing would be bad. Even if you love “Fables” as I do, it would still be nice to have a comic about fairy tales that you could safely show to a young child. After all, you can hardly show a ten year old a comic book where Snow White and Cinderella use the f-word, now can you?

Fortunately, “Lullaby” is a far cry from being a children’s version of “Fables.” On the surface, the world of “Lullaby” is a world where various characters from children’s stories live and a world where two children from our world ended up after a seemingly fatal car crash their families were involved in. These children would grow up to be Alice, the Hand (essentially favorite enforcer) of Wonderland’s Queen of Hearts, and Piper, a young man whose music is literally magic.

Our story begins with three quests. Alice finally gains the power and position she needs to search for a way home and begins her quest to do so with the Cheshire Cat as her companion. Piper aids a young werewolf named Red to find her grandmother, who has disappeared. Elsewhere, a young sailor named Jim Hawkins sets out on his own quest for adventure, accompanied by a shark-like sword, a talking parrot, and a wooden boy named Pinocchio. It’s soon revealed that the roads for all their quests lead to Oz, a land from which Dorothy and the Wizard have long since departed.

On the surface, it appears as if the creators, Hector Sevilla and Mike S. Miller, have simply plucked characters from some of the more obvious cautionary tales from children’s literature - keeping your promises, curiosity, honesty, and talking to strangers - and sent them on a road trip together. On some levels, this is true, but that’s hardly the whole of the book.

Initially, the only knee jerk reaction a fan of traditional fairy tales may have is the portrayal of Little Red Riding Hood as a young werewolf and the woodsman from her tale as a large, humanoid pig. Other than that, it seems that Jim Hawkins, Little Red Riding Hood, Pinocchio, the Pied Piper, Alice of Wonderland, and even characters from the land of Oz have been picked up shortly after their individual tales have ended and been sent off on a new adventure. We learn, however, that that is far from the case, as neither Piper nor Alice are who they seem to be, and of the remaining characters of the series, the only motivation we can be sure of his Jim Hawkins’s need for adventure and loyalty to his friends.

One of the most prominent themes of “Lullaby” is that of identity, something that each of the characters has had ripped from themselves in one way or another. Jim Hawkins has been cast from the sea, the only home he knows, and sent to run wild. Pinocchio, a wooden boy made flesh made wood again, had realized that his existence is no longer determined simply by what kind of body he wears, and must decide whether he truly wishes to be wood or flesh. Red, a mere child, uses her family to define herself as most children do, and has had that ripped away. Piper seems to have no real sense of identity, raised by a man who is everything he doesn’t want to be, but with nothing, not even a name, to separate him from that man. Of all the protagonists, it’s only the extremely confident Alice who seems secure in her identity, even to the point of basing her entire reality on it. That identity, however, is fragile, as, unbeknownst to her, “Alice” is not who she really is.

In some ways, I want to continue writing indefinitely about this great series. Continuing, however, would result in revealing far too much about the events in the series. Because, while the protagonists themselves are as straightforward as they can be, the plot itself is complex, with many subtleties. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your opinion, there are currently only seven issues of this great series available. The original four issue miniseries, collected into a beautiful trade paperback, two issues of the ongoing series, and a square bound one-shot telling the origin story of Piper, apparently the first of a series of such one-shots. In addition, a second trade has been solicited for a July release by Alias.

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