Friday, October 19, 2018

Snow White: A Graphic Novel - Matt Phelan

Summary: The scene: New York City, 1928. The dazzling lights cast shadows that grow ever darker as the glitzy prosperity of the Roaring Twenties screeches to a halt. Enter a cast of familiar characters: a young girl, Samantha White, returning after being sent away by her cruel stepmother, the Queen of the Follies, years earlier; her father, the King of Wall Street, who survives the stock market crash only to suffer a strange and sudden death; seven street urchins, brave protectors for a girl as pure as snow; and a mysterious stock ticker that holds the stepmother in its thrall, churning out ticker tape imprinted with the wicked words "Another . . . More Beautiful . . . KILL." In a moody, cinematic new telling of a beloved fairy tale, extraordinary graphic novelist Matt Phelan captures the essence of classic film noir on the page—and draws a striking distinction between good and evil. (summary and picture from

My Review: The cool thing about fairy tales is similar to the cool thing about Shakespeare--you can place them in different times and settings and get a cool new interpretation.  These are seriously old stories, yet they hang around for a reason, because they continue to resonate with people.

I got to hear Matt Phelan at a conference this summer, and one of the things he spoke on was his process for creating this graphic novel.  He said the story of Snow White has always been one of his favorites, but when he wanted to adapt it to comic form, he knew he wanted something special.  He loves old movies, particularly films like Citizen Kane, and he wanted to give Snow White that vibe.

His research into the subject was fascinating, adapting a magical fairy tale into the world of Great Depression America.  The cruel stepmother is a fading theater star.  The seven dwarfs are street boys. The prince is a detective.  It's a really fun twist where you can still see inklings of the original fairy tale while getting whole new take.

I loved the boys who take Snow in, who call themselves 'The Seven.'  These are hardened boys who have had to grow up quickly, who know the streets and how to survive, who even refuse to give their names because that is what they hold most dear.  Their relationship with Snow was a integral part in the story, and I loved it.

I've mentioned before in my review on Matt's 'Bluffton'--his art is so beautiful.  He invokes so much emotion with a few pencil strokes and a wash of watercolor, and in Snow White, he grasps the feel of old black and white films, which were an art of themselves. 

Snow White could be a quick read, but you don't want to read it quickly. It's a joy to linger on each page and let it wash over you like you're watching an old black and white film.  You can almost hear the scratchy audio and vintage soundtrack as you follow Snow's story.

My Rating: Four Stars
For the sensitive reader: The stepmother character is a little spooky, and her demise is pretty dramatic and frightening.

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