Monthly mini-reviews: ‘All My Friends Are Ghosts’, ‘Aster and the Accidental Magic’, and ‘Snoopy: First Beagle In Space’
All My Friends Are Ghosts
Writer: S.M. Vidaurri
Artist: Hannah Krieger
BOOM! Studios; $14.99
Effie hates school. She doesn’t like taking the bus, she doesn’t like competing with her rival classmate, she doesn’t like being picked on by the boys, and she doesn’t like that her English teacher is so critical of her and discouraging of the werewolf story she’s writing.
Then she stumbles into a school she does kind of like, Minourghast Middle School For Wandering Spirits, a sort of haunted Hogwarts that she discovers in the woods near her own school. She’s led there by a trio of ghosts she meets one day while she’s skipping her school and they’re skipping theirs. But if she thought she was an outcast at her own school, it’s even worse when she is the only member of the entire student body with a body, and the only one who still has to go to the bathroom every once in a while.
While Effie and her new spirit friends don’t quite fit in where they are supposed to fit in, they do fit together, and they ultimately arrive at a solution by creating a space that humans and ghosts can occupy together—without anyone having to quit going to the school they’re supposed to go to.
Writer S.M. Vidaurri squeezes a lot of world-building into such a short story, but artist Hannah Krieger certainly helps sell it all, creating a variety of interesting-looking ghosts, some of whom take wildly different forms than one generally expects a ghost to take (One of Effie’s best friends, for example, has the head of an owl, and a lost spirit they attempt to fight and save looks a bit like a sea serpent with three sets of wings and a dragon-like skull in place of its head).
It’s surprisingly emotionally heavy at certain points, as Effie gets a very unexpected lesson in the way that one’s perceptions can affect one’s reality, and how the stories we tell ourselves might actually consist of more fiction than fact.
Aster and the Accidental Magic
Writer: Thom Pico
Random House Graphic; $12.99
One of Random House Graphic’s initial round of offerings, this French import is actually two complete stories under a single cover.
Aster is a little girl whose family has just moved to a mountain valley in the middle of nowhere. Though the mode of the book is fantasy, there’s something science-fiction-y to the setting as well: The reason they moved there is because there is a gigantic, dangerous species of bird (here called crows, but instead resembling colorfully feathered storks) whose regular migrations wreak havoc on any humans in the way. Aster’s mom, an ornithologist, moved them there so she could work on building a robot decoy crow to lead the birds on a less destructive route.
What that means for Aster is that she’s a city kid trapped in a bucolic world, far from anything and everything she knows. She won’t stay bored long, though, as she meets a mysterious shepherdess with a flock of special woolly sheep dogs (and no actual sheep), she is given one of them as a companion, and before long she meets a trickster spirit willing to grant her three wishes. Being a trickster spirit, he grants her wishes in such a way that he technically gives her what she asked for while making everything worse in the process.
In the second story, Aster learns more about the valley’s history, including a pact between the four rulers of the seasons, which she inadvertently becomes involved with when one of her wishes from the previous story made it impossible for the Queen of Summer to pass her crown over to the King of Autumn, a giant, vicious magical fox. We also meet The Chestnut Knights, the valley’s adorable legendary warriors, who are a trio of chestnuts that magically grow bodies, faces, and tiny little swords.
Artist Karensac’s designs and artwork are as charming as she and writer Thom Pico’s story is imaginative, and these Aster stories manage to find an appealing balance between being funny and being thrillingly dramatic. This as easily one of the best comics I read this month, for kids or for grown-ups, and I’m very much looking forward to the next book, Aster and The Mixed-Up Magic.
Snoopy: First Beagle In Space
Writer/artist: Charles Schulz
Andrews McMeel Publishing; $11.99
Andrews McMeel Publishing’s latest kid-friendly collection of Charles Schulz’s seminal comic strip takes its title and theme from a seven-strip sequence in which Snoopy’s doghouse, which usually serves as the World War I flying ace’s Sopwith Camel, becomes “the world-famous astronaut’s” rocket ship, as the imaginative dog becomes the first…well, you can read the title yourself.
It looks like they dipped pretty far back into Peanuts history for at least a couple of the lunar-themed strips near the beginning, as it’s obvious that Snoopy and Charlie Brown are drawn differently in those strips than they are throughout the rest of the collection (not to mention Charlie Brown’s asking Linus if he’d like to the first man on the moon, as if Neil Armstrong hadn’t already beat them both there).
The theme continues into the back matter, where young readers will find a half-dozen pages of facts about space travel and a creative writing prompt, followed by a half-dozen truly old-school Peanuts strips from the 1950s about outer space.
The rest of the book consists of full-color four-panel strips, each broken up into squares with the first two panels stacked atop the second two, each of which cover half a page. These are occasionally interrupted by longer Sunday strips that are spread across a two-page spread.
While Snoopy’s astronaut fantasy and other moon-related content comes and goes, the book is filled with strips featuring the full diversity of Peanuts’ running gags: Charlie Brown being bad at baseball (and Lucy being worse), Peppermint Patty’s complete disinterest in school, and so on. There are also a couple of longer story arcs, like one in which one of Snoopy’s avian Beagle Scouts gets separated from the troop, necessitating a series of search parties, and another where Peppermint Patty takes up golf, only to be sabotaged by Marcie’s poor caddying skills.
Schulz’s masterpiece remains a very particular sort of all-ages comic, one that is relevant and funny for readers of all ages generation after generation.
Filed under: Reviews
About J. Caleb Mozzocco
J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.
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