With a wonderful dark comedy tale that will appeal to people who love Nightmare Before Christmas, Andi Watson brings a charming romance to the dark world of creepy-crawlies in Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula, from First Second Books.
The goth Princess Decomposia is the long-suffering daughter of King Wulfrun, a man who needs things to be just right lest his world fall apart and he becomes sicker than he already seems to be. The King follows food fads, forbids the Princess from lightening her workload, and rules with an uncaring and self-centered iron hand. When the old royal cook quits her job, the handsome vampiric foodie Count Spatula comes to work in the palace – and in the process enrages the King and delights the Princess.
It’s a love triangle of a very different sort, all delivered with verve and joy with Watson’s minimalistic and charming approach to the art. It’s a pure joy to see how Watson brings characters to life with a few well-chosen brushstrokes and with the right amount of background and place-setting to make the story come alive. There’s a lot of life in his little lines; the creatures in this story both transcend their individual personalities, and become iconic, while also remaining very specifically themselves.
Princess Decomposia charms, with her hair fringed in bat-shapes, her obvious love for, and frustration with, her father, and her slightly chubby face. Count Spatula, too, is an expressive charmer, his large clear face with its pointy chin an ideal platform on which for Watson and the reader to read the character’s emotions.
And if the story is a bit talky and has a slightly predictable resolution, it also meanders and eludes an easy grasp through some amusing plot twists. The relationship between Spatula and Decoposia is especially enchanting – we readers can see their friendship grow through his fantastic food creations (there’s a very silly moment with lemon drizzle cake that had me giggling out loud) and the adventures they take together. Watson’s seemingly simple linework shows its bewitching complexity in the scenes between those two creatures, with subtle eye movements and body language adroitly chosen.
The book ends with a long set-piece of Decomposia and Spatula sitting next to each other, looking at the reader and sideways at each other, that is so sweet and light and wonderful that it will leave you with a smile.
Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula is suitable for ages 8 to 80. There are monsters and other creatures in this book, but they’re all shown with a wink in the eye and a real charisma on the page. I was enchanted by these monsters, and you will be too.