The true literary pioneers seem to manifest from small presses and blossom in independent bookstores. But there still is a certain haughty nautre to those successful, yet underrated, literary masterpieces. A reader of the avant-garde would probably never consider including graphic novels and comic books amongst the latter. But, they're still there: countless volumes of cult-classics and unconventional stories told through graphic novels. We overlook such groudbreaking artists like Neil Gaiman (THE SANDMAN series), Jhonen Vasquez (JOHNNY THE HOMICIDAL MANIAC), Allison Bechdel (the DYKES TO WATCH OUT FOR series), Edward Gorey (AMPHIGOREY, THE GASHLYCRUMB TINNIES) and Michelle Tea (RENT GIRL). Yet they are all prolific, artsy and fantastic storytellers. They deserve as much recognition as the break through small press heros.
If this group of artists and writers is to be recognized, then they should be considered their own private avant-garde and Serena Valentino's "NIGHTMARE AND FAIRY TALES" should be included amongst this list.
NIGHTMARES AND FAIRY TALES: ONCE UPON A TIME, combines the first several volumes of Ms. Valentino's underground comic book series, which masterfully blends horror with fantasy elements and placing it in a modern day setting.
The narrator comes into the form of a small demented looking doll, named Annabelle, who is almost magnetically drawn to murderous creatures of the dark and the unfortunate heroines who fall victim to them. As Annabelle states, it is unknown, even to herself, if she is the cause of all the death and despair that befalls her owners, or if she is merely an observer or chronicler to the events.
Her first tales involve an unfortunate young goth girl, invovled in a relationship with another girl who believes she's a vampire. When her friends start getting murdered, Annabelle can only whisper out warnings and watches her owner's downfall. She later retells more demented versions of Snow White and Cinderella, again, hinting that she had some stake in the creation of these horror-fairy tales themselves.
Like one of the previous reviewers, I was most drawn to the fifth story, featuring young Gwen, a polite and shy little girl who moves into a very spooky house. Her next door neighbor is an elderly woman, "Aunt Bea", who offers Annabelle as a gift on move-in day and promises that the strange doll will protect her. As Gwen slowly realizes that disgusting monsters lurk behind the cracks of her bedroom walls, we also learn that her parents are just as monstrous and physically abuse her. Annabelle offers consolence and protection from the monsters, but there's only so many things she can do. When Gwen's father locks her in the closet for a night, Gwen cries at that the monsters are coming to harm her and from next door, Aunt Bea pleads for Annabelle to protect her and kill the monsters. The next morning, Gwen's parents are found ripped apart by some unknown beast.
Certainly not a comic book for young children, NIGHTMARES AND FAIRY TALES is amazing and mystical. Written with wizdom and poisoned ink, it creates the more shadows than one is comfortable with, but sheds a little light for hope that the reader will survive until morning.