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Wonderland #1
posted April 19, 2006

Creators: Tommy Kovac, Sonny Liew
Publishing Information: SLG Publishing, comic book, 24 pages, $3.50
Ordering Numbers:

imageIf the advertisement on the back cover is to be believed, Slave Labor Group is doing four comics based on Disney properties: Haunted Mansion, Gargoyles, Tron and Wonderland. Since I'm not 12, I won't go into the issue of whether or not a company like SLG should work in licensed comics. It seems like an honorable path to me, a possible way for them to find another group of niche stores in which to place their publications, and an opportunity for good work to result. Unfortunately, I haven't really cared for the comics I've seen -- admittedly, I'm not the target audience, but they've seemed to lack the kind of surpassing attention to craft that really makes work like stand out. But I do like this Wonderland comic, and I think it's a solid effort.

Wonderland may be that rarest of all modern comics beasts: a comic for kids that doesn't necessarily feel like it's a bunch of adults who really, really love children trying to make a kids comic. It focuses on Mary Ann, a native of the place Alice visited that works as a maid and takes stains on her apron really, really seriously. She interacts with many of the characters from the Disney adaptation of the Lewis Carroll work, which as a group somehow manage to be appealing enough to hold my interest but not so adorable or well-remembered I went into the project feeling any kind of leftover proprietary notions regarding their proper use. By book's end Mary Ann is on the run from having overstepped her bounds. That's not a bad idea, really: kids are more likely to relate to someone avoiding adult punishment as opposed to someone with more benign motives as a throughline.

The overwhelming item of appeal in Wonderland is Sonny Liew's art, which is painted without losing its cartoon energy, imaginatively laid out, and frequently adorable. I would look at future issues just to track his development. I don't want to overpraise Wonderland #1; it's not richly realized or idiosyncratic enough to qualify as great work, and there's enough dissipated energy from scene to scene it hasn't yet reached very good. But this looks like a quality package for this kind of effort. While I probably wouldn't buy future issues out of genuine artistic interest, I would have no problem buying my niece one to read on a car trip, and, if she liked it, I would be happy to buy her another.