September 27, 2016

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All-Ages or Small-Ages #26 (The Boy and The Dragon by Isaac J. Crawford)



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?

The Boy and the Dragon has a very heartwarming origin described in its summary, giving a rhyme and reason to its structure and narrative content. Its sole creator, Isaac J Crawford, told this as a bedtime story to his son before eventually putting pen to paper and finally creating this comic. It follows the story of a young boy who forms an unlikely friendship with a dragon only to have it cruelly ripped from him. Years later, the boy heads out in the hope of finding it again.

As the context of the comic's origin might imply, this is a very surface-level story about a young boy's first foray into the world of fantasy. Granted, it's a very touching story with a few very poignant moments, but it's clear that this is something that evolved over the course of each telling, gradually adding more and more details to it with each telling. Framing the narrative with caption boxes to this effect highlights this in a way that, depending on what you're trying to get from this comic, will either pique or halt your interest.

Saying that, there are a few moments in this story that, even as someone with more experience with fiction, still hit pretty hard. The boy's journey later in life into the world, trying to track down a lost part of his youth is a strong metaphor for aging that I don't think will ever fully lose its effect for people of any age. Despite the bittersweet nature of the adventure, it's something that you find yourself rooting for throughout the story.

Despite the simple nature of the narrative, there's a deliberate feel to it that reveals some of Crawford's storytelling prowess. Although it draws very heavily from other fantasy properties such as Eragon, whether deliberately or not, it's a coherent and skillful depiction of what might otherwise be a complex situation. There are also fractal echoes that ripple throughout the boy's life, specifically the repetition of a certain phrase, that show how coherent this issue is.

Crawford's art has a freehand feel to it, reminiscent of both Ramon Villalobos and Iain Laurie, that gives both the humans and creatures a more natural and grounded feel to them. In a story where the main focus is on both mythical creatures and the boy's reaction to his situation, this is an important quality to have. The colours have a detail and a beautiful gradient to them that brings this remarkable world to life; they're realistic while also being very clearly influenced other fantastical sources.

My only real criticism of this comic is its simplicity and its length. Everything else about this comic is something that I really do adore. It has has a story with the richness and depth that you need to take a story to that next level, but it all unfortunately ends a little bit too quickly; you'll be able to read this issue from start to finish in less than five minutes. However, you most definitely should read this comic to your child, regardless of gender, at night; it has adventure, heartbreak and tragedy all in one beautiful package.

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.