Review: “Rapunzel’s Revenge” and “Calamity Jack”

For the love of books

Rapunzel and Jack and the Beanstalk — people may think they know these two popular fairy tales, but they do not until they have read Rapunzel’s Revenge and Calamity Jack, the latest comic books on bookshelves.  True, comic books are a popular sub-genre in literature, requiring more artistic skills from both author and illustrator but less mental effort from readers.  However, until recently, plots for comic books usually were rooted in science fiction, with the main characters possessing extraordinary powers.  On the other hand, Shannon Hale and Deal Hale decided to ignore the norm and change the rules by creating two gender-friendly graphic novels that focus exclusively on fantasy-related material.

Illustrated by Nathan Hale, these products of a family’s imagination introduce Rapunzel.  However, she is not some whiny kidnapped girl with very long hair in this version of the fairy tale.  No, Rapunzel is a strong-willed cowgirl with a very independent nature and has great aim with her lasso made out of her own hair.  Welcome to the magical (literally) land of the Wild West, to where Rapunzel travels after escaping captivity.  While she’s on the run from her wicked stepmother, Rapunzel meets Jack, an experienced young thief who has a background of dealings with con-men, adversaries, and a familiar goose who supposedly can lay golden eggs.  Together they join forces in order to overthrow tyranny and save the “kingdom” from ruin, becoming trusted friends along the way…and maybe even more than that.

Calamity Jack is the sequel to the outcome of the story in Rapunzel’s Revenge, only this time Jack takes the spotlight away from Rapunzel story-wise by going back to his hometown to face his mother and a lot of angry, man-eating giants.  It does not help that the giants basically control the city and have Jack’s face on every “wanted” poster.  Adventure, romance, and two extraordinary heroes who cannot help occasional banter and wisecracks lead the way for the storyline of Calamity Jack, a more violent, bleak overview of Jack and Beanstalk.

In both comic books, informed readers will notice the references the Hales have inserted into their modernized characters’ dialogues as well as the other traditional fairy tales and fables that get enmeshed into Jack and Rapunzel’s confrontations with ant people or one very nasty witch dictator.  Original is one adjective that can define Rapunzel’s Revenge and Calamity Jack, with the authors’ themes of rebellion, liberty, and equality in each comic strip.  However, as with many comic books, these two cannot escape from the fact that they are more for a one-time read and visual absorption.

Original review: Presenting the first two ‘fairy tale comic books’…, Examiner.com

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