June 27, 2017

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All-Ages or Small-Ages #33 (Alice in Wonderland by Leah Moore, John Reppion and Erica Awano)


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?

Alice in Wonderland is one of my favourite pieces of creative fiction that I’ve ever read. Its self-styled nonsense and gleeful exploration of what can be possible when you lose sense of narrative cohesion is unparalleled. As it has an innate ineffable quality to it, it lends itself very well to many different kinds of adaptation: movies, TV shows, video games and comics of all shapes and sizes have been cast into the world. However, despite the quality of the source material, some will inevitably fall short.


The quality that makes the original Alice in Wonderland so beloved by people of all ages is the ease with which you can project whichever interpretation you wish onto it and still come away satisfied. There’s something that gets lost whenever the story gets put down into a static medium that feels particularly prevalent in this comic.

For example, one scene that stands out from the book is Alice’s first encounter with The Duchess. When we, as the reader, first meet The Duchess, she is cradling a bawling baby in her arms, the air surrounding  her is saturated with pepper, and she is crooning a twisted lullaby all about how she abuses her child. What can read as a devastating moment where the young Alice misunderstands a real-life child-abuse situation becomes just another moment of bizarre incredulity.

It is worth noting at this point that Moore does manage to capture the tone of the original book. By retaining some of the original narration and the overall narrative progression, there are times when it does feel as though you’re reading the original book. Alice also retains most of the personality that readers know: slightly off-kilter, but understanding to a fault. Moore has sanded off the self-flagellating edges that are present in the original text, but it’s difficult to imagine that aspect will be particularly missed by anyone.

What this more direct adaptation does highlight, however, is the limitations that one faces when translating something into a different format. By not modifying the story where necessary, what you this comic becomes is something that feels unquestionably flat. Story beats that work when they were abstractly described by Carroll feel false and unnaturally mannered. It’s difficult to imagine most of the comic serving as anything but a picture representation of the original book for the youngest of readers, manifesting creatures that they could previously only see in their imaginations.

Reppion’s art is perfectly serviceable for the story being told here; it captures the style of the famous drawings most associated with the book, but otherwise isn’t particular notable. One main problem with the issue is the vacant expression that Alice is consistently drawn with, dragging her back from becoming an active protagonist who engages with her own story and instead twisting her into someone who stares blankly at the surreal surroundings.

The colouring from Awano likewise subdues the overall tone of the story, which should by all rights be buoyant and engaging, by washing everything in an earthy brown. The attempt appears to have been to create an antiquated look to the comic, with some of the panels surrounded by some parchment stylisations, but the resulting colour pallet simply makes the book appear bland.

When adapting something as iconic as Alice in Wonderland, it is important to assign your own unique perspective - Tim Burton is the perfect example with this specific story. By performing as direct an adaptation from the source material as possible, Moore, Reppion and Awano inevitably lose the nuance of the original, but without adding in anything new for themselves. Buy this for your children to show them their favourite characters brought to life, but you should stick to the original novel.

However, whatever you decide to do, keep your children far, far away from the Zenescope comic; that’s one pile of hot garbage.

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 mcdickson101@gmail.com or head over to check out the podcast that I co-host You Know What I Like...? on SoundCloud.