Typically when I buy comics, I’m looking for something with a little grit, a bit of sex and a lot of violence. Now what that says about me notwithstanding, I do on occasion miss out on something that I may actually enjoy. Usually this means all age comics, so when I was surfing through Comixology looking for something new to read and stumbled on Malice in Ovenland by Michellene Hess I was glad that this was one all age book I didn’t skip over.
We open up where a number of stories with black protagonists start, in prison. Here out heroine Lily contemplates what she did to end up in this mess over a bowl of slop, that reassembles steaming mucus. Flash back to the last day of school, a day held sacred to children all over the world. Instead of this being a day of celebration however, Lily must stay home and clean her entire house as her friends and even her mother take some sort of vacation. Now being the good child she is she pouts, complains aloud and scoffs at the idea, but in the end she gets to work, which goes well until she starts working on the oven. This lands her in her current predicament, assailed by french fry forks and strange reptilian creatures.
Getting right to it I like this book, Lily seems like a real child and not just any child a young black girl. Though she’s in a single parent household, it doesn’t seem empty even when it’s just her and the note her mother leaves her detailing her tasks while she’s gone; they are the words of every black mother I’ve ever met. The character’s life is, for lack of a better term “relatably black,” to me, which doesn’t mean that all other experiences by black people that don’t conform to this one are any less authentic or relatable to others . It means that what I read in this story reminded me of my own home life. That being said it also reminded me of Static the comic, because we rarely get to see the home life of Black youth in comics.
The writing flows smoothly and at no time does Lily seem like anything other than a young girl who has to do chores she doesn’t want to do, and that’s a good thing. I’ve encountered in some stories that attempt to write about children, but they come off feeling like an adult trying to write from the perspective of an adolescent resulting in a lot of forced storytelling.
The art is a bit of a mix of American illustrations with expression, that remind me of manga. Both like the writing are blended seamlessly to create a style all its own, a style which will land Hess more of my money in the future. My only gripe is that the comic ends too abruptly for my taste. I would’ve like to see a little bit more of Ovenland before she was taken to the queen, but I’m sure that next issue will satisfy my curiosity.