Friday, December 19, 2008

Into the Rabbit Hole: "Alice in Sunderland: An Entertainment"

Alice in Sunderland: An Entertainment was written and drawn by Bryan Talbot. This creative graphic novel takes a while to read, but is completely worth it. Talbot connects Sunderland, England with Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. His use of nonsense and reality intermixed perfectly. He tells of Carroll's life as a native to Sunderland, connecting it with the history of the area. Pieces of his famous Alice story come from life in Sunderland. The overall effect is amazing.

Talbot utilizes a wide range of artistic styles throughout the comic. The use of traditional comic layout and modern comic flow is blended expertly. Cartoon-like characters are intermixed with realistic characters as perfectly natural if not normal. The use of varying styles adds to the nonsensical story line. Talbot borrows heavily from the original Alice images, so that the original Alice is scattered throughout the text, constantly reminding the reader of the overall purpose of the comic.

Talbot is quick to the emphasize that while Carroll is Oxford's golden boy, he lived in other places. He was not born in Oxford, in fact he was born in Sunderland. The history and culture of that place influenced Carroll deeply...according to Talbot. Sunderland's history and future along with Carroll's are blended together in a cohesive (if not coherent) story.

The plot itself is surreal, a story within a play within a dream of a comic writer. Of course the story told on stage is "real." Talbot is mixed deeply within the story. He is the dreaming audience member, the playwright/stagesmith, the actor in the "real" world, and the comic book writer in our world. He is also our white rabbit leading us deeper into Sunderland(wonderland).

Talbot leads us deeply into the myth, magic, and "reality" surrounding Alice in Wonderland. He is an expert wordsmith and illustrator. His use of the absurd would make Carroll proud.

Overall, I give it 5 out of 5.

Jump into the Rabbit Hole with Me,

J.R. West the Raccoon

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