02 May 2005

REVIEW: Lullaby: Wisdom Seeker #2

All-ages fantasy stories are apparently the new zombies, and Alias seems to be trying to corner the market, making a splash with a trio of mini-series -- Lullaby; Lions, Tigers and Bears; The Imaginaries -- squarely targeted at the sub-genre. Cleverly promoted with the high-concept blurb "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen meets Shrek," creator/artist Hector Sevilla has combined an engaging cast of familiar characters from the best of children's literature -- Alice, Jim Hawkins, Pinocchio, Little Red Riding Hood and the Pied Piper, among others -- and thrown them into a world where magic has gone awry and "a big, bad something" lurks in the background.

Sevilla's character designs -- from the lupine Red Riding Hood to Hawkins' shark-headed sword -- are unique and distinctive, and the fantasy world he's placed them in is vividly depicted, partly thanks a complementary assist from a trio of colorists. The dark, magic-infused 8-Balls Hawkins confronts are particularly impressive, large winged whale-like creatures ready to pounce on a fleeing Hansel & Gretel before the wayward, land bound pirate saves the day. Of all the characters, Hawkins is the most engaging, having embarked upon a quest to see the Wizard in the hopes that he will restore his wooden friend Pinocchio's humanity. Equally impressive, if somewhat off-putting is his Alice, the Hand of the Queen of Hearts, a buxom teenager whom Sevilla frequently over-endows in ways more fitting for Red Sonja than a purported all-ages heroine.

Wonderful artwork aside, Lullaby lives and dies on its storyline, and it's an ambitious one, attempting to weave together disparate story elements from a wide range of source material into a unique and cohesive tale. Whereas the first issue suffered from an awkward transition between its two main stories, scripters Mike S. Miller and Ben Avery have a tougher time with the more complex plotting Miller and Andres Ledesma have put forth in this issue. Combining four different storylines, two of which clearly converge while the other two do so more subtly, the transitions are again handled awkwardly, sometimes abruptly. It's a cinematic approach that doesn't quite work on the page, partly because there's so much story crammed into the issue...in and of itself an admirable "problem" to have to deal with. The use of colored narration boxes isn't always enough to distinguish between the characters' too-similar voices, either. At the same time, it's the individual strengths of each character that makes it all work, simultaneously familiar and unique as they are. Hawkins again stands out the best in that regard as Lullaby's Han Solo.

While "all-ages" is something of a subjective term these days, Sevilla and Co. are undoubtedly putting together an intriguing tale that, like Shrek and every single PIXAR movie to date, appeals on multiple levels. While I suspect it will read even better if/when it's collected in trade form, it's a worthy monthly pull and I'm looking forward to the next issue.

Lullaby: Wisdom Seeker #2, (Image/Alias Enterprises, April 2005; $2.95); Written by Mike S. Miller, Ben Avery and Andres Ledesma, Art by Hector Sevilla.

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