Written by Melissa Jane Osborne
Art by Veronica Fish
Pieces of media that play with established and historic storylines and plot details are one of my favourite things. It takes a special eye to take something so fully formed and spin it into something new; after reading this first issue, it’s difficult to imagine the original story going any other way. Taking arguably the protagonist of the original Peter Pan story, Wendy Darling, and exploring what happens after her return from Neverland, Osborne weaves a compelling psychological study that manages to be simultaneously magical and deeply troubling. Fish has a very traditional artistic style that brings out the normalcy of the present day situation, but makes a shrewd decision to keep a critical part of her art in reserve.
Colour is lacking from the world around Wendy, compounding the sense that this is a bleak, yet entirely recognisable world. Everything is told from her perspective, allowing the art to completely reflect her current state of mind. Whenever a splash of colour appears on a page, it instantly lets the reader know that something special is about to happen: it comes to represent the magic of Neverland and all that entails. As the book progresses, you eventually view it as moments where Wendy’s perspective on the world is starting to slip and that it might be the sign of something far more sinister.
One thing that I absolutely adore about this book is the level of second-guessing and doubt that underlies everything that we see. The issue is framed as a series of entries into the journal that the protagonist is keeping to deal with the trauma that she’s gone through. Subsequently, everything that we see has been skewed by her depiction of the events at hand; it’s the epitomisation of an unreliable narrator. You’re constantly questioning whether or not these are the ramblings of someone descending into mental instability after the magical world of Neverland or are the genuine observations of someone that’s pleading for recognition of what they’ve experienced.
A third, more depressing, interpretation is that this is the story of a girl that’s creating this self-starrring narrative as a method of escape from her unfulfilled life. It’s very easy, with this in mind, to identify moments where real-life starts to bleed through even into her fantasy world: her overbearing parents are a prime example, watching them attempt to deal with a daughter starting to explore who she is as a person. After going through a big loss in the family, Wendy constructs this fictional world where she’s no longer to blame and can imagine, just for a second, that everything is eventually going to be alright. This story has such a potential for interpretation, with all of the seemingly supplementary moments allowing for multiple re-reads and many different ways of putting all of the pieces together.
Fish keeps up the charade of a journal entry so magnificently and shows how important lettering can be in a story as stylised as this one. The narration itself has been hand-written to sell the idea that it’s been created by a single person, but has a weight to it that prevents the book from feeling unfinished. Beyond that, the decision to include little annotations around particular parts of the story demonstrates Wendy’s wit and her ability to laugh at her own story; deciding to align these annotations vertically is a nice little detail that sells the note as an off-hand thought. Seeing handwriting throughout the book allows you to create a stronger connection with her as a real person and gets past the wall that typed lettering usually puts up.
The design and presentation of this issue is another example of the shrewd marketing abilities of everyone involved in this project; the front cover looks like the outside cover of a little black journal and sets the immersion level remarkably high as soon as you begin. As you read through each page, you can see the outer limits of the page shape, giving it the illusion of a book where each page has been individually scanned. You would easily believe that this is an object that exists in the real world and that’s a testament to how phenomenally this has all been put together.
Despite the morose elements driving the plot forward, the amount of hope keeps the issue upbeat and enjoyable from the offset. Wendy has a reasonably dry wit that puts you firmly on her side as she attempts to convince the world that she’s not making this up. The splashes of colour reveal the flashes of something better, while also reminding you of the potential insanity that lingers on the edge of the character’s mind. This book is the perfect combination of wistful longing for something better and learning to accept that the most magnificent moments of your life might be behind you; it’s spoken to me on a deeply personal level and the level of skill here is undeniable. Grab a copy on Comixology and, if you ever find a place to buy this book in a physical form online, instantly let me know.