It’s easy to forget how often folktales make no sense at all.
In the 10 myths and fairy tales adapted in this graphic novel, a boy hatches out of a peach, a hairbrush transforms into a mountain, and a polar bear grows a coat of feathers. The surreal images suit Phillips perfectly. He’s especially good at drawing the hawks made of ice who appear in “Thor and the Frost Giants.” Unless readers are experts on folklore, they may not be certain if the creatures were borrowed from the original stories or invented for the book. His sense of composition may remind some people of the legendary P. Craig Russell, with its use of open space and vivid, graduated colors. (The blue skies are particularly lovely.) But the character designs are odder and more abstract than Russell’s, and every story is drawn in its own style. The ogres in the Japanese story of “Momotaro,” fittingly enough, resemble the monsters in classic Japanese prints. (Outside of “Momotaro,” the stories’ primary human characters are generally white.) The visual storytelling, however, is sometimes confusing, and a few panels are poorly placed, throwing off the pacing.
Even people who’ve read countless folktales will find something new and surprising in this collection, and they may discover that the stories are even stranger than they remembered. (Graphic folklore. 7-12)