by Philip Skurski When I was still but a small child I loved Fozzy Bear. The puns, the knock-knock jokes, “Wokka-Wokka”, what’s not to love? I distinctly recall one video called “Muppet Masterpiece Theater”, a series of retellings of some of the most classic tales in folklore, and I remember seeing Fozzy walking around in a powdered wig and heart pattern boxer shorts (a cliché that will never stop being funny) as the vain emperor duped into buying clothes that don’t exist.
Grace, the novella by sibling duo Madeline and Cedric Richards, has none of the mugging and “Wokka-Wokkas” of Fozzy Bear’s bare tale, but it is a great visual twisting of the Emperor’s new clothes.
It’s a quick read, as all good parables ought to be, and the Richards’ keep just enough to themselves to keep things mysterious. The writing gets a tad simplistic at times, feeling a little awkward and pedestrian, and I had trouble determining if that’s in respect to the innocent fairy tale nature of Grace or not.
But, the main force behind Grace is the art. Some of the visuals are truly stunning. The middle section has a stained glass quality that harkens back to the Dark Ages, when tales like this were so prevalent. I found myself staring listlessly at the pages on more than one occasion. There are party scenes that are drawn to create a great sense of fairy tale scope, and walk the line between cluttered and intricate deftly.
Even with the main character sometimes being drawn a bit grotesquely to reflect her besmirching vanity, the whimsical fairy tale feel is not lost. She frequently comes across as that childhood standard of extra badness, the evil Disney step-sister, tiny upturned nose and all.
However, what stuck with me most of all about Grace, what really gave me pause while reading to blatantly admire, was the coloring. There is an integral sunset motif in the story that is set off from the rest of the world of Grace by being painted in watercolors. These are easily the most beautiful panels of the book; the first in particular is near breathtaking.
How apropos that a story about capturing the ephemeral beauty of a sunset does so itself with impeccable flair. The day I first read Grace it rained, and as I was driving after the storm cleared I looked at the sky, only to be met with the exact color palate used in Grace. And not just for the sunsets in the book either. The backgrounds, the dresses and costumes, the characters of Grace all have a distinctly familiar hue that still feels original.
TL;DR: Grace probably won’t shake, rattle, and roll your delicate sensibilities, but it is a fine example of postmodern romanticism. And darn it if those visuals won’t stick around your retinas for a spell.
Grace is written by Cedric Richards with art by his sister, Madeline Richards. The siblings Richards published the book themselves and you can check out Madeline's website for a listing of local comic book shops that currently sell the title. They are hoping to open online sales soon.
A review copy of Grace was graciously provided to Spandexless by the creators.
Philip Skurski is regularly suspected to be a vampire, but prefers to be called Phil. He writes and reads and occasionally drinks Earl Grey. Phil loves marginalized media, the stories “serious minded” people turn their nose up at because—well he doesn’t know the becauses and the wherefores. He thinks and writes about all these things regularly, and is glad to have a place like Spandexless to put that time to good use. Idle hands are the Devil’s playground, as they say.