Skottie Young and Jean-Francois Beaulieu’s I Hate Fairyland is a beautiful and delightfully twisted romp. Their collaboration brings to readers a vibrant, magical world that is thrown into chaos by the arrival of Gertrude. Once a sweet little girl, she is a jaded, 40-something bringer of mayhem – all while stuck in her prepubescent form. This is the anti-Disney book the world needs.
Readers are introduced to Gertrude on the very first panel. She appears to be a typical, middle class child with a love of fairy tales. As is the case in many stories, Gertrude makes a wish be swept away to a land as magical as the one in her dreams. While the narration boxes remain calm and steady as one would expect, the sight of the floor opening up and attempting to suck her in does not fill the young child with joy and wonder. Her reaction is much more realistic. She is terrified as she plummets into Fairlyland. Her landing in the middle of the streets leaves her bloodied and mangled. The sight of anthropomorphic trees, suns, and bugs freaks her out. Ultimately, I Hate Fairyland presents a realistic reaction to this unusual predicament.
Most readers primarily think of Young as an artist first, and for good reason as each panel, from the first page on through the last, is bursting with energy. Each character is full of life, wearing their emotions on their expressive faces, while Beauileau’s varied and vibrant colors pop off the page. For example, his rendering of Gertrude as she falls headfirst into Fairyland conveys both humor and horror. It is a juxtaposition that, within the first few pages, acts as a microcosm for the issue [and likely the series] as a whole. Young and Beauileau’s art routinely challenges readers with contrasting imagery, such as smiling moons and brutally murdered stars. It’s gleefully over-the-top.
The one noticeable flaw is the use of crass language, which is inconsistent. The reasoning behind this is understandable. Readers are to assume that an 8-year-old would not know curse words and, left to her own designs, would make up her own like “fluff”, but then later refers to a group of policemen as “dickheads”. In fairness, the latter it is used as a setup for visual gag, but it does stand to reason that if she knows one term, she likely knows more – especially because kids do know more. Ultimately, this is a minor criticism in an otherwise enjoyable issue.
Something should be said about the chaos Gertrude has wrought on Fairyland over the course of twenty-seven years and that world’s citizens letting her continue to run amok. While the issue explicitly states that the ruler is unable to harm Gertrude directly, waiting nearly three decades to do something about it a little ridiculous. Not only that, but the citizens have yet to take any direct action against Gertrude. It is easy to draw parallels to the political current state of the United States, where government leaders have sat on their hands, doing nothing to solve overt problems at home (and abroad), and its citizens are too complacent to actually do anything about it. Political satire in a fairy tale book? It’s a surprising, if subtle (or subconscious) inclusion that works within the context of the story.
There might be comics with more tightly scripted plots, crisper artwork, and a more refined color palette. However, I Hate Fairyland #1 is the best book to feature the moon taking a shotgun blast to the face. Unabashedly irreverent, Skottie Young and Jean-Francois Beaulieu deconstruct fairy tales only to rebuild them stronger and more suitable for an older, though not necessarily mature, audience. The result is an imperfect, but thoroughly enjoyable debut issue.
Published by Image Comics, I Hate Fairyland #1 hits physical and digital bookshelves on October 14, 2015.