The attack came with no warning and only his training prepared him for what he must do. Going against everything in him that screamed at him to defend the Queen, to protect her from the usurpers, Hatter Madigan did his duty and protected her daughter, Princess Alyss of Wonderland. But once the two of them had fled through the Pool of Tears, they were separated and Hatter must search through a strange and wondrous new land to find his lost liege.
Hatter M: the Looking Glass Wars, vol. 1
Written by Frank Beddor with Liz Cavalier; illustrated by Ben Templesmith
Automatic Pictures Publishing, 2007
Grades 8-11, ages 13-16
Frank Beddor’s novel series, The Looking Glass Wars, turns the old story of Alice and Wonderland on its head. In it, Alyss is an exiled princess from the kingdom of Wonderland who tells her terrible tale to an aspiring young author, Lewis Carroll. Carroll retells her story as the nonsensical Alice in Wonderland, changing all of the parts that could have helped Alyss’ loyal guard, Hatter Madigan, find her and bring her home. The novels tell Alyss’ story, but Hatter M’s tale is no less important, so Beddor teamed up with veteran illustrator Ben Templesmith to tell of the journeys of Hatter M in comic form.
Beddor has crafted an engaging story, even for those who have not yet read his novels. Action, humor, a keen sense of what life was like during the Victorian Era, these are all present. The atmosphere of the story feels real, even as readers know that it is a fantasy. This is a difficult task to succeed at, but Beddor does. As Hatter tries to get out of France and find out where Alyss might have landed, readers will be fascinated by not only his story, but by the side stories into which he lands.
Templesmith’s dark, moody art is best known in more violent adult comics such as 30 Days of Night and Fell, but it works just as well here, even with the violence mostly toned down. His thin pencil drawings layered over washed backgrounds of dark blues, reds, and golds, keep the story from seeming babyish, important when taking a tale that is so much associated with childhood and trying to rework it for teens. That is not to say that all readers will enjoy Templesmith’s art. It is an acquired taste that might not speak to all comic readers. Templesmith’s experience working with action and horror serve him well here. The fight sequences, which are vitally important to a story about a bodyguard and elite fighter, are action-packed and the scary factor is ratcheted up enough to keep readers engaged.
Because of the action scenes, there is a good amount of violence, though the blood is mostly off screen, with a few notable exceptions. Middle schools that carry the novel series might want to look over the graphic novel first, but should also be able to circulate it without too much controversy. Just as the novel series is still ongoing, this graphic novel’s storyline is not neatly wrapped up by the end of the book. Casual comic readers may find Templesmith’s art a daunting prospect, but fans of the book will persevere through and find themselves enjoying a different perspective on what is happening in their beloved series.
This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © Automatic Pictures Publishing.