Friday, March 22, 2013

Not So Wild Review: No Rest for the Wicked

When I started these Not So Wild Reviews, I intended to do them in the order of how I collected the comics.  And then I found this:

No Rest for the Wicked, Chapter 1:  The Moon Rolling in Her Grave

This is the first chapter of one of my favorite comics, done as a motion comic.  There's another comic that had this happen to it, but it was only one strip and I have reviewed it yet.  So in the meantime, let's talk about


I'm not big into fairy tales, I know of them, but I know Andrea Peterson, the artist and author, is very much into them.  She knows them quite well, the core versions and such.  There's even a list of links to the stories on the website.  While other comics might refer to these classic stories, she adds knowledge to it, gravitas and a bit of reality.  I also suspect they are much closer to the actual stories then what you might see out of Disney.


The art is very sketch book.  I mean, I could see these pictures, especially the early strips, done in someone's notebook.  It's not bad, not at all, it just feels that way.  As the comic goes one, the art improves, at it must, but it always remains "sketchy."  Great art?  No, but it hits the right points.  Characters stand out, it's easy to identify them at a glance, backgrounds are interesting and well built, and actions are fluid.  From a sequential art stand point, it's more than competent and quite well done.  Many other comics would beat it out in the art department, but it's not bad by any stretch.


I don't usually talk about the setting of comics because, well, it's unnecessary in most cases.  Does it really matter that it's implied that Sluggy Freelance takes place in New Jersey?  No, it doesn't.  But for No Rest, the setting IS the comic.  This comic takes place in a literal fairy tale world.  There are kingdoms, vast tracts of wild forest, and not much else from what I can tell.  It's a strange world yet the characters seem very at home in it, which they should be.  They're aware of the issues with this world (including strange old women, witches and curses) and deal with them as they come.  Their relationship with their world is constantly there, to the point that their interactions with each other sometimes take a backseat to it.  It's even hinted that the world is quite vast, but has a literal end, as evidenced by a pilfered atlas which has a page marked "The End," just as all fairy tales do.  This makes the comic kind of unique amongst other strips that might take a similar route since knowing even the basic rules of the setting is vital to understanding character motivations, the jokes, and even the overall plot.


A princess, a cat and a woman on the edge of sanity go looking for the moon could easily be the start of a fairy tale on it's own.  As it is, they are reinterpretations of classic fairy tale characters.  November is the princess from Princess and the Pea, Perrault is Puss in Boots, and Red is Little Red Riding Hood (or Red Cap, the things you learn from this comic).  Aside from Red, they aren't far off their traditional mark, November sleeps on dozens of mattresses and has an allergy to peas, for example.  Red is more a post-tale version of the character, one that has gone through significant stress and kind of cracked.  Their motivations aren't strictly hidden, but not laid out completely.  This is not a quest to save the land, that's incidental honestly.  November was told finding the moon is the only way she'll sleep again, Perrault is in it for the chase, and Red, well, I think her reasons are the most enigmatic.  Each has their qualities without being wholly dominate in one or the other.  Red is the muscle of the group, but is smart enough to see through deciptions, Perrault is the brains, but sometimes overthinks things, and November is innocent and fragile, but far tougher than one might initially think.  A fourth member was added in the last couple of chapters, but her presence seems more incidental at this point, and I almost think there's something off about her actions at this point.


From what I can tell, the goal is to basically rattle through a lot of different fairy tales, having our central cast meet players from each one and have it lead to their final goal.  This means taking the actual fairy tales and turning them in odd ways so they seem more natural and real, and possibly linking them closer to the original source than normally would be.  At the same time, I think Andrea has taken a few liberties to make some of the tales that much darker than they normally would have been.  The call back to Hansel and Gretel being the prime example of this (and yes, that one grew DAMN dark).  Given that the original fairy tales are dark to begin with, this is pretty damn disturbing.  The result is the pacing is compartmentalized as each tale is partially retold and represented in new and interesting ways.  I hope this continues as they make their way to the end, though I wonder what other fairy tales might be tapped for this.  1001 Arabian Nights perhaps?  Hard to say.


There is always something about this comic that makes it stand out as one of my favorites.  The characters, the setting, the story, the jokes, all make this a comic I want to read and love very easily.  What hurts it is the abysmal update schedule.  There are usually months between pairs of pages, which makes the wait a strain.  At one point, well over a year had passed between updates and I thought the comic was dead for sure.  I dropped Zap! for having regular, weekly strips because of pacing, so why does No Rest get a pass?  I think because it makes every effort not to waste time.  A single page can easily draw one back into it and make it feel like not a beat was missed.  Zap! couldn't do that.  Still, a slightly more regular update schedule could easily move this from being a favorite to being a must read.  As it stands, the comic is more a brief stop on my weekly run rather than a comic I check obsessively.  I wish it was otherwise.

Time to move on to the next thing.  Make sure you check out that video, it's totally worth it.  Until next time kiddies.

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