July 19, 2016

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All-Ages or Small-Ages #16 (Fetch: An Odyssey by Evie Dunn, Martin Dunn, Dee Fish et al.)



See all of the past entries of All-Ages or Small-Ages here.

There are a wide array of all-ages comics out there from the classic Archie comics, through the  Sonic the Hedgehog and Disney, all the way to the original properties such as Lumberjanes. You might look at one of these books and think that, as an adult, it doesn’t have much to offer you. As someone who has discovered a deep fondness for titles such as this, I’ve been surprised by how rich and complex the stories can be. All-Ages or Small-Ages? is a feature that takes a look at the books that fall under this banner and attempts to analyse whether or not their assigned label is apt; is it a book that you can read along with your children?

EDIT: It has come to my attention since writing this article that the writer was seven years old at the time of the comic's publication, so the remainder of the review should be approached with that in mind. While I maintain the objectivity of my review, I do believe that this should be taken in consideration when judging the merits of the series.

Fetch: An Odyssey has all of the trappings of an all-ages classic. Beginning with the tragic passing of the family dog, it chronicles the adventures of the young Evie as she attempts to grapple with the consequences of death by, as only a child would, heading off on an epic adventure to get him back. However, as the title would suggest, the story is heavily grounded in Greek mythology. Through a spate of one-off supporting characters, that either oppose or help her along in her journey, we see an array of attempts at the young Evie finding closure. While Evie Dunn (the creator) and Martin Dunn make a valiant attempt at bringing all of these components together into a cohesive story, the creativity ultimately becomes the story's own undoing.


It’s clear from the offset that the entire creative team has a great love for Greek mythology. By pulling from all aspects of the culture, from the ancient gods to the mythical creatures, readers of any age are going to be able to point at these prominent aspects and say: “I recognise that”. However, as an older reader, every component remains at a very surface level description. While I understand that this is part one of only a two issue story and that there isn’t time to delve into the motivations of every single character and creature, it's a quality that actively prevents you from becoming fully invested in the story; when you start to get attached to a character, they disappear.

One character, aside from the protagonist, that remains constant from their first appearance is the broken chew toy, Crunchy. When you read this book with the perspective that age gives you, you can identify this as a toy that the young girl has stumbled across in the garden and is clutching onto tightly. It adds another level of tragedy to their adventure that extends beyond the inherent sadness of a girl unable to accept that her pet has moved on. The only criticism that I have of this plot point is that it’s not leaned on heavily enough; there’s far more opportunity for development here than he’s given time for.


The protagonist, Evie, has an undeniable zeal to her that immediately feels very realistic. With a recognisably childish and headstrong attitude, she innocently charges forward without any thought as to the consequences of her actions. You empathise with the character from the very beginning due in part to the enthusiastic speech, but mostly due to her portrayal in the art. Dee Fish has one of those bubbly and exaggerated styles that pushes smiles literally from ear to ear and cause the eyes to fill up at least half of the character’s face. It perfectly highlights the degree of the character's youth and complements the epically framed style of writing.

The layouts of this issue are both simplisitic and minimalistic. There are rarely more than five large panels on a single page, which makes the story far more suitable for its intended audience, but subsequently reduces the amount of story that can be told. It’s worth noting that a simplistic structure doesn’t inherently have a negative connotation, as the first issue of the recent Wander aptly demonstrated, as long as it serves the story being told. Unfortunately here, with all of the surface level information that we get, it’s difficult not to imagine a version of the issue that breaks those panels down further and gives a far greater look into the complexities of this adventure.


Another limiting factor of the story is the slightly clunky dialogue. Although the concept of the story sounds immensely compelling, especially as a reader who breaks down every time death has to be explained to an innocent character, there’s a stiffness in the initial conversation that prevents it from fully connecting. While the dialogue improves as the story goes on, Evie initially sounds like a strange mix between an adult and a child with a speech pattern that doesn’t fully become either. Missing the most important emotional beat of the story, the rest of it unfortunately falls reasonably flat.

Although there’s a lot of promise in the conception of this story, the execution doesn’t come close to meeting that bar. With cursory nods to the most famous and prominent parts of Greek mythology, it’s difficult to connect with any part of the story beyond the protagonist; it’s an idea that would have worked far more effectively in a longer miniseries. However, with awkward scripting at the beginning, that admittedly does eventually smooth out, it’s very difficult to become invested in the fate of these characters. None of these problems would jump out to a younger reader so, by all means, buy a copy to give to them. There’s an important message hiding behind all of this that’s worth spreading around; just don’t buy an extra copy for yourself.


Let me know if there's a comic that you think I should be checking out. I'm always on the look-out for some more hidden All-Ages gold. Contact me at mark@thegreengorcrow.com or head over to check out the podcast that I co-host You Know What I Like...? on SoundCloud.