Like most inspired literary creations that managed to strike a strong chord with a wide audience, the title character of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s 1943 illustrated novella The Little Prince never really went away. Whether in the original form or in one of the many media adaptations—the most familiar of which to Americans of a certain age will be the English versions of the anime that aired on Nickelodeon in the 1980s as The Adventures of the Little Prince—The Little Prince is seemingly never too far away.
It therefore doesn’t seem quite accurate to say he’s come back in this new series of graphic novels, adapted from the new animated series, but these are brand new adventures featuring the star-faring little royal.
The little blond boy from the personal-sized planetoid of Asteroid B612 travels through space in a biplane, accompanied by his fearless, finicky, more id-driven friend Fox, a fox. Their ultimate goal is to save the universe from The Snake, a black cobra who manipulates the emotionally vulnerable into selfish acts that, if left unchecked, could end up destroying their home planets and snuffing out their their stars.
The Snake’s ultimate goal is to plunge the universe into darkness.
Despite the high stakes, the adversaries’ conflicts are generally rather gentle, with the Prince and Snake talking to the imperiled populations of the planets they visit in an attempt to convince them to do ill or to do good. The Prince, usually appearing in his familiar light blue costume with a yellow scarf, transforms into something more regal when he needs to use his powers, which include creating drawings on paper that can come to life and help him out of tight spots (usually these come in the form of a large, highly abstracted bird or ape-like creature).
Each of the soft-cover, album-sized graphic novels in the series has a different writer, but are produced by the Elyum Studio, so they are remarkably consistent. And while they are indeed numbered, each is essentially a standalone effort, in which the Prince and Fox visit a different planet, find there’s something quite wrong with it, discover the Snake is the culprit and then set it right before moving on to the next planet and the next challenge.
In Book 5, The Star Snatcher’s Planet, they find a mostly gentle-farming folk who have nevertheless teased one of their own to the point of completely ostracizing him. The outcast has retreated to an observatory atop a giant tree, where he studies the stars in a curiously life-like planetarium, which fills up with stars at the exact same rate that nearby stars in the night sky are snuffed out.
In Book 6, The Planet of the Night Globes, our heroes find a bizarre species of large, floating eyeballs that attack in the dark, and a town lit up all-night long by a strangely insistent lamp salesman. The Prince must figure out the mystery of why the eyeballs and the people aren’t getting along as they apparently used to.
Each volume ends with a four-page short by a different artist, working in their own personal styles that are often quite dramatic departures from the lushly colored, delicately lit, animation cel-style artwork of the main adventures. In Book 5, cartoonist Pierre Makyo sends our heroes to Copyworld, where every time someone says “Me” they create an exact duplicate of themselves.
And in Book 6, Olivier Supiot sends them to the planet of the Nightmare Knight, who guards the worst Nightmares while they sleep. Demanding a bedtime story of the Little Prince, he tells them of the familiar-sounding Rainbow Planet.
These new adventures both have a pleasant, bedtime story-like quality that make them well-suited for readers of all ages and all dispositions, although I suspect younger, early readers and adults who can appreciate the fine craft that went into them will enjoy them more than many middle-schoolers and teens, who might find it somewhat frustrating that a hero with a sword never seems to use it on his easily chopped-uppable foe.
Naturally they don’t hold a candle to the prose novella that originally inspired them, but it would be more surprising if they did.