COMIC BOOK REVIEW
Castle Waiting: The Lucky Road
By Erik Blankinship
Art & Story by Linda Medley
Lettering by Todd Klein
Published by Cartoon Books: Columbus, Ohio
Looking over the comic book store shelves last week, I was intrigued by a fanciful volume titled Castle Waiting. I leafed through the pages and was pretty sure I had found a keeper, as inside were charming pictures of medieval castles and villages inhabited by two-legged woodland creatures and adventurers. The artwork was imbued with a sense of adventure and surprise, so I thought I ought to give it a complete read.
The cosmology of Castle Waiting is a world of well-known fairy tales, Mother Goose rhymes, and Brother’s Grimm stories come to life. The artist, Linda Medley, adds her own characters into the mix as well, providing a charming environment for the reader to explore. Within the first few panels, our heroine has visited the Three Little Pigs (who now own and operate the Wolf’s Head Inn), traveled though Tolkien’s Hobbiton, and crossed the Billy Goat’s Gruff Bridge. It is an eclectic mix, one which reminded me strongly of the Roberta William’s King’s Quest video game series, wherein Sir Graham, King Graham, and Rosella would visit different locales lifted from various fairy tales, often located within a few screens of each other. Familiarity with these tales and their characters is assumed in this work, although I assume it is not a pre-requisite for enjoyment.
Medley’s drawing style reminded me a lot of Archie Goodwin’s work from the Star Wars daily comic strips (recently collected and bound by Darkhorse comics). Many frames of Castle Waiting are humorously detailed with small creatures in the corners scurrying about, being involved in mischief, and adding additional shots of humor. These small details bring the world to life and allow you to marvel at the creative prowess of the artist.
The story reveals itself as a mystery to the reader, as a princess carrying a child travels in search of a rumored castle, Castle Waiting, which is said to offer safe refuge. Upon finding the castle, she is taken in and over time becomes comfortable with the locals who live there. One of the delights of the book is just to be brought along on the inhabitant’s daily routines.
The greatest moments of excitement come when a new character is introduced to the story, as they are rendered with small details to examine such as the hilt of their sword, or an amulet they wear. The castle is another such delight of the comic book, as new sections and their inhabitants are revealed as the story progresses. As the characters walk about the grounds, I found myself there with them and having a strong sense of what all of Castle Waiting looked like.
I would really like to spend more time in Castle Waiting, if only there was something to do there! You see, there isn’t much of interest happening in Castle Waiting, and at one point even the characters themselves grow bored. The reason for the heroine’s arrival at Castle Waiting never really intrigued me in the slightest, which is a fault of the story. Fortunately, the renditions of the characters and the locations are drawn with enough detail and skill as to keep you intrigued.
The publisher Cartoon Books hit the comic radar when it brought us Jeff Smith’s Bone, a recent comic classic, and with the addition of Castle Waiting, it is gathering a great collection of fantasy-adventure artists. Another recent arrival at Cartoon Books is Sergio Aragones’s Groo The Wanderer (which you might remember from Mad Magazine).
The Lucky Road is a compilation of the series’ first seven issues brought together in one large bound volume, so you can get a large dose of this fanciful world at once. Monthly issues of the comic book are continuing to come out every month, and the next bound compilation is scheduled to come out in summer 2001.