Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Fairest: Wide Awake

by Bill Willingham and Phil Jimenez


Wide Awake is a strange beast. It's a little unusual for a graphic novel to be explicitly targeted at fans of romance, and also for a story based on fairy tale characters to be "suggested for mature readers", but that's not why it's odd. It's not a retelling of traditional legends. Instead the creators have taken things further by mixing up characters from various stories and eras and sending them on new adventures.

Ali Baba is hunting through the ruins of a city when he comes across an ornate bottle, which he unstoppers. Out pops a blue cherubic creature which he hopes is a genie, but Jonah Panghammer is only a lowly bottle genie with a penchant for American pop culture. Jonah's main power is the ability to know things he shouldn't be able to (which is handy for the plot), but this knowledge is unreliable. He's also always naked. Whilst this is played down with strategic shading and yoga-like arrangements of his legs, after a while the artists run out of suitable poses and we see this fat little imp who leaves nothing to the imagination. He isn't the only character showing too much flesh, but he's the one most in need of a loincloth. This is what makes this graphic novel odd, because you don't know where to look and what is the point of illustrations that make you want to look away?

Jonah tells Ali Baba he'll find a great treasure in the middle of a goblin encampment. But what he finds is not one but two sleeping beauties, and he doesn't know which one to kiss to wake up. So he wakes them both, only to find that the Snow Queen is furious about having been put to sleep, and she wants revenge.

Jonah knows the story of Briar Rose's past, so he retells it in an attempt to fill Briar in on the details and also distract the Snow Queen from her evil plans. But Briar Rose's past isn't done with her. Conflict and supernatural enemies follow her around like a curse. And although Jonah is supposed to be in Ali Baba's possession he has plans of his own for everyone, and he's adept at interpreting the rules of his enslavement to his own advantage.

Jonah is amusing, and he's the one who gives the story most of its bite. It's set in the present day (I think), but not on this world so there's a whole mixture of references to modern life and things like TV shows, mixed in with a history of fairy tales and myths.

The artwork is bright and clear, and the covers for each chapter are very arty. Adam Hughes' cover for chapter four, with a sultry Ali Baba, is particularly appealing.

One thing I wasn't convinced by was the tendency of some characters to solve every argument with fists, in these grand battles which the major characters often come out of with little more than a few scratches and some dented pride. It's a bit corny. The character of Hadeon in particular is too much of the evil witch who likes trouble for its own sake. However there's enough going on that the action doesn't get dull, thanks to shifting alliances and other surprises.

Briar Rose and the Snow Queen are both a bit frosty, but I liked the way they seem to complement each other and play against the stereotypes of their characters. In spite of a certain imp this is a very attractive graphic novel, and the story is quite engaging despite a few flaws. It's not the most romantic version of the Sleeping Beauty story, but it has charm.

30th January 2013

Book Details

Year: 2012

Categories: Books


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