I didn’t have any idea what to expect from this one, but it didn’t take long for it to rather enchant. Yes, it’s rough, it’s loose, but there’s such charm here in a tale best summed up by the back cover:
“A big glittery gay fairytale fandango about a boy who’s too pretty to be a boy and a girl who doesn’t want to be a girl”.
The boy is young Arthur, who turns up at the door of the local nunnery as a baby, and, with nowhere else to go, ends up staying there, growing up amongst the nuns, all big and strict and full of rules, full of a long, long list of don’ts.
Arthur grows up clever, healthy, pretty (“too beautiful for a boy if you ask me.” says one of the ever miserable nuns) and bored.
And very, very lonely.
It’s all very well having God in your life, but Arthur soon realises God’s pretty dull company. He can’t catch for a start. And he’s terrible at monopoly.
The girl is Posy, who lives and works with her mum at the local bakery. Posy wants to run, and climb, and do things and go places that aren’t all that compatible with long hair, petticoats and pretty, pretty dresses.
I doesn’t take long for them to hit it off…..
And that’s where we leave it, with a boy who doesn’t know quite what he wants, but knows it doesn’t have much to do with being the nun’s little boy, and a girl who really doesn’t want to be a girl all that much. Bonding over their shared distaste for their own lives, their own gender roles. It all ends with an idea on Arthur’s part…. involving scissors…..
I’ve got to say, I was pretty much sold on it from the start. There’s a sweetness here, a delightful innocence about the pair. It’s got the feel of a somewhat off-kilter children’s book. Albeit a children’s book that looks like it’s going to be meessing around with all sorts of gender roles and religious prejudices. Abd I’m intrigued and involved with the characters after just this short first issue to want to know much more.
And on top of the delight in the story, I’m loving Johnson’s art here. It’s not immediately, or obviously pretty, not all that cultured, but that doesn’t matter, as Johnson uses whatever he’s got to create an interesting mix of rough comic art and rough picture book style illustration. It really does delight.
I’m pretty sure some may see the pages and think they’re a complete mish-mash, a mess of comics, illustration and prose, but not here. I love the blurring of the lines between comics and picture books we get here.
Johnson as an artist also stays firmly inside what he knows, and where he can’t do something, he turns his shortcomings into a design feature – take that cover and the nuns above.
Initially the black archway seems like a simple framing design. But get inside, start to see page after page of nuns drawn as round topped standing stones with a circle of face peering out and you see the cover anew, see the nun, and the influence of the church, bearing down over both Arthur and Posy. Perspective doesn’t matter all that much, detail, background, anatomy – all forgotten to serve the story, to serve the artist. Deliberate choice or simply making the best of what he has? Doen’t matter. Works for me either way.
And the more I looked at the art the more I see to enjoy…. take this detail from one of the pages….
I’m a terrible reviewer in so many ways when it comes to artwork… but those rough hewn lines, that looseness, especially those big round eyes…. whose art does it remind you of?
I really, really enjoyed Arthur and Posy (you can order it here). I’m really hoping that Risbridger and Johnson are hard at work on issue 2. I’ll be lookiing forward to it. Johnson also has a webcomic “Private Study” which goes down on the list of things to read and talk about …. when I’ve battled my way through the physical comics sitting on the review shelf!