Writer: J.M. DeMatteis
Artist: Mike Ploog
If your heart is pure enough and you know the magic words, the enchanted blue globe will carry you over the eight oceans and into Abadazad—where “sorrow has no home, where time has no meaning, where joy lives forever!” But even if you’re not so pure and you don’t know the magic words or possess the blue globe, you can still experience this fairy-tale world through the enchanting storytelling of J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Ploog, the creative team behind CrossGen’s tribute to classic children’s literature, ABADAZAD. This premier issue dazzles in a universal, timeless manner that spans age groups and redefines heroism through the adventures of a guilt-ridden teenager, hoping to rescue her long-lost brother by entering the fantasy world of his favorite novel.
ABADAZAD is so imbued with make-believe that you can almost feel the pixy dust tingling on the pages. Yet, the characters’ situations are very real and extremely touching as a single mother and her daughter struggle to cope with the loss of their little boy, five years after his kidnapping. Immediately, DeMatteis establishes these characters as sympathetic, especially the teenaged daughter, Katie. Her adoration for her brother, Matt, is poignant—from the moment we first see her reading Matt a bedtime story about Abadazad, to her remembering the instant love she felt when he was born. “Mom put that prune-faced squirt in my arms and it was like meeting my oldest, dearest friend…for the very first time.” Thus, the tragedy of his kidnapping and the painful aftermath are all the more heartbreaking as Katie becomes an angry teenager who fails her classes, locks herself in a closet for hours each day, and refuses to sleep in her bedroom, the bedroom she had once shared with Matt.
But although Katie is grounded in troubled-teenager reality, her personality is unique and her dialogue is revealing of a well-defined, complicated spirit. She is innocent but soured, fragile but strong, imaginative but practical. She also makes keen observations—especially in regards to Mrs. Vaughn, her mysterious neighbor who ends up being closely connected to Abadazad. “Mrs. Vaughn was so ancient, she looked like she’d been dead for fifty years” and “Mrs. Vaughn’s house had that old person smell. You know, like everything in it was preserved in plastic since 1950.” Yet despite Katie’s aversion towards Mrs. Vaughn, it is through this child-like old lady that Katie’s faith is slowly restored. Conflicted between lingering childhood hope and souring teenaged cynicism, Katie embarks on her search for Matt; and by the time she does so, DeMatteis has already created such a strong connection between character and reader as to make her quest feel personally vital for our own satisfaction.
The art, like the writing, is a smooth blend of fantasy and reality. With overly defined features, Katie is cartoon-like in appearance, but her expressions and mannerisms are those of a real-life Brooklyn teenager, especially as she stubbornly defies her mother. Even the most fanciful character in this issue, Mrs. Vaughn, has a realistic feel despite the fact that her enthusiasm for Abadazad borders on insanity. Also, the art has great silent moments, where the pictures provide the only narrative. And these moments highlight the impressive strength of the art, particularly during the two most significant events of the book—when Matt is kidnapped and when Katie realizes that Abadazad is real. During these two events, Ploog unravels the process of realization with calculated pacing and intense emotion. In both cases, Katie begins to understand what she had previously believed unfathomable—the loss of her brother and the existence of a fantasy world. And, without narrative, Ploog manages to impart far more than any words could have possibly accomplished. In short, the art is pure magic.
Mike Ploog and J.M. DeMatteis have created an inspiring and innovative new series. Conjuring the spirit of Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland, ABADAZAD is likely to become one of the most charming comic book series in circulation—one that can be thoroughly enjoyed by children and adults.
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