Fairy-tale princes and princesses get a postmodern makeover in this wry but slight reimagining.
Writer and illustrator Manley cribs much of the material here from his Tumblr feed, Fairy Tales for Twenty-Somethings, matching brief observations on classic characters with simple, sometimes emotionally effective line drawings. The pieces are brief and mostly self-contained, although a few characters (The Ugly Duckling, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland) get extended story arcs based on their idiosyncrasies and particular challenges, which feels a bit like tossing a Disney princess into the cast of HBO’s Girls. The characters are mostly cynical, although a few can be touching—see the “funemployed” Hansel and Gretel, perpetually alone together in the woods, or a gay Arthur hugging it out with Sir Lancelot. You’ll find Cinderella writing herself empowering Post-its: “You are in control of your own future. You are capable of amazing things,” immediately followed by “And fuck anyone who says otherwise.” The Tortoise and the Hare also have an interesting arc, with their lifelong competition played out in public. “It wasn’t until they were each about to fall asleep that night that it hit them at the same time: There is no destination. There isn’t a winner. There was never a race,” Manley writes. The illustrations are entertaining—the worried Chicken Little, next to a bottle of Xanax that reads “Take one any time you do anything,” is a highlight. From Red Riding Hood and her vibrator (“Lil’ Red”) to Beauty’s and the Beast’s sexting addictions, these fractured fairy tales may not be for everyone, but they are crafty.
Not as poignant as Bill Willingham’s Fables series, but a cool, PG-13 revisiting of classic stories. For readers who grew up with the Internet, they may strike a chord.