Sunday, April 27, 2014

Puddles

Written and Illustrated by Tara Abbamondi
Self-Published

Remember when you were told not to step in puddles as a child?

Remember not following that rule any time you could get away with it?

Well, Maggie wishes she'd taken the advice of her mother in this well-illustrated fantasy that has touches of whimsy and woe wrapped into a modern-day fairy tale.

Mixing a bit of Alice in Wonderland with Grimm's Fairy Tales, Ms. Abbamondi creates a world where one wrong turn changes the life of a girl forever. After disobeying her mom. Maggie falls into a puddle and is taken to another world, where her appearance will save them all--for a price.

I don't want to say much more than that because I'd give away the story, but it's a great dilemma, which brings up some questions, like how much free will Maggie has in making her decision. She's clearly manipulated by Neena, the spirit that saves her/traps her but the alternative to being an unlikely savior was meaningless death--or was it?

The story is just ambiguous enough on this point to make it incredibly interesting to me. Maggie is seen to be extremely willful, so the idea of her landing in a situation that's infinitely worse than having to listen to a parent and how she deals with it (which we discover in a clever, natural way) makes for a compelling story, even if it is extremely brief.

I also like the way this one feels like a fairy tale without being a slavish copy of one, a problem we see far too often when creators who love old stories try to make a "new" one that comes out as anything but. Tara's plot will make you think of stories you know (the idea of falling down the puddle, having the townsfolk try to solve the problem, the idea of unending rain, etc.) but they don't feel cobbled together or taken from anything. Similarly, the dialogue is organic--there's no attempt to artificially create a world that sounds like late period Middle English, for example.

Ms. Abaamondi's visuals here are quite strong in terms of the panel constructions. When Maggie is discovered to be the solution to the town's problem, they almost overwhelm her, something we see by masses of hands reaching out to her, giving a feeling not unlike a horror movie--which for Maggie, that's not far off the mark. The scenes inside the water use blacks to great effect, allowing Maggie to stand out against its murky, deadly depths. There's also some great perspective views in this one, with the attention focused on Maggie's boots, which play a major role in her dilemma.

Unfortunately, as with The Stolen Lovelight, there's still some work to be done on emotional range and backgrounds, with the latter giving us just enough to follow the story but lacking a real sense of place that a fantasy story like this one needs to firmly ground the setting for the reader. However, that's a common thing with many mini-comics, and I've grown used to it. I just wish we saw a bit more pushing in this area from the new generation of mini-comics artists.

Overall, this one was a lot of fun to read and re-read, and I highly recommend it. You can get a copy directly from Tara here or see her at an upcoming show.

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