October 2, 2014

"Um...I hope it's this way."
Eric Orchard
Top Shelf Productions, 2014
96 pages, cmyk, digital

Out of the gate, "Maddy Kettle: The Adventure of the Thimblewitch" is a beautiful looking book. Eric Orchard's illustrations are very distinct, extremely detailed and have a certain affinity to one of Tim Burton's animations. That said, this is Orchard's first graphic novel and it shows.
Maddy Kettle is an eleven year old girl whose parents have been transformed into mice by a witch. When this supposed agressor finally succeds in kidnaping her parents and her floating toad Ralph, Maddy embarks on a journey to rescue her family.
Although the story starts in media res, something not habitual in a children's comic, this relatively sophisticated option doesn't reflect the rest of the narrative that ends up pretty straightforward.
This is the book's weaker side, Orchard when faced with a lull in the story quickly resorts to a deus ex machina solution: every time Maddy has a problem or a situation that seems impossible to resolve, something or someone has an easy answer. Basically, the story lacks foreshadowing and seems to be written on the fly, lacking a certain consistency that irked me.
On a brighter aspect, the characters are recognizable and easily relatable; the story hints at a wider universe and the open-ended ending gives ample space to be explored in future adventures.
Fundamentally, I believe "Maddy Kettle"'s greatest sin is underestimating its target audicence. Children aren´t dumb (they ask questions and want good answers!) and unless this comic is directed at three or four year olds who haven't read or been read a book, someone's child is going to be disapointed by this story. Here's to a more challenging sequel.

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