Into the Woods, A Fairytale anthology
edited by Stacey Whittle.
It is a time of action, not talk, and here Stacey Whittle, a comics commentator for SFX’s blog and regular podcaster on Small Press Big Mouth, has decided to package together a wonderful selection of dark fairy tales.
This black and white anthology contains nine stories, which is a great return for a meagre fiver, and the quality is not at all lacking here; in actual fact, the Andy Bloor cover sets a standard for artwork that is consistently maintained throughout. This is occasionally a big difficulty for me, as a small press reader, where a cover or idea shoots out at me, but then fails to come to full fruition in execution in the interior.
I have nothing to fear here - Stacey Whittle has obviously been very professional in her approach, or perhaps has the eye for quality and the standard here is very high, upsetting the cliché that one should not expect high calibre work from a small press anthology, and the variety of styles makes it all the more pleasing.
Some stories like ‘Red Riding Hood’ have a smart twist to them, while ‘A Time for Change’ reflect well known stories and are just told anew, but lack none for it, although isn’t that one of the joys of fairytales, the mystical and magical wrapped into a neat story. Short stories have a job of work to do, to get across all the elements that the reader wants, in such a short time, and with all nine here, there is no doubt that the right level of density is achieved. I liked many of the stories here.
(a beautiful panel from Lee Robson and simon wyatt’s The Lang Pack)
Alice Duke’s artwork on ‘Samhain’ is really slick and nice, and I wondered how her work would appear in full colour, but the story is also a modern take on a classic idea, and it reads well. ‘Blood and Sacrifice’, is very stylistic, using contrast to great effect, no grey tones, but a strong black inking effect, and much clarity by Stu.Art, gives this tale a real punch. It’s rather graphic but not in a visceral way, and Stu.Art manages to go from close up to wide angle really easily, and it had such a nice ending too and I loved Klaus. This is one of my favourites.
Changling by Alexi Conman and Conor Boyle is a very dark story. I wondered whether the writer had contemplated this story being a reflection of modern post natal depression, or whether its just a very unnerving story, either way, I thought that although it is not uncommon as a subject, that it was portrayed very well.
And another favourite was ‘Amber and the Egg’, by Nic Papaconstantinou, Bevis Musson and Filip Roncone. This is a wonderful fairy tale, set in a far off place, starting in a ‘Mean Wood’ and the light artistic fine line style, is perfect for the story, and ends very nicely.
(gorgeous art for the back cover of Into the Woods as Vicky Stonebridge is inspired by the Amber Egg tale)
Overall I was very impressed. Recent weeks have seen the release of many comics, including the internationally renowned Womanthology, but we need sometimes to also look closer to home, as Stacey Whittle in her début collection has brought together a stunning set of stories, and by a mixed group of creators. I look forward to what Stacey Whittle can do, and wonder what other genre’s she may take a fancy to, that will entice me. A cracking little collection.