There is an interesting scene early on in God Save the Queen, the new original graphic novel out today from Vertigo Comics, written by Mike Carey and painted by John Bolton, where we briefly see the mother of our protagonist. Throughout the book, we see characters through our protagonist (Linda, by the way)’s eyes, and it is clear that she does not think well of Ava, which is what she derisively refers to her mother as. And at first glance, we, the readers, are not meant to think any better of her than Linda does – but then there is a little scene early on, just a short one, not more than a panel or two, where we get a glimpse at Ava, and though it isn’t spelled out to us blatantly, Carey is clearly hinting that there is some inner depth to Ava that we are yet to see. It’s such a nice, nuanced move, and it really captures the spirit of Mike Carey when he is hitting his strides as a writer.
This is a fun graphic novel with nice painted artwork from John Bolton.
The conceit of the book is as follows – the evil former queen of the Faerie kingdom has returned to reclaim her throne from her successor, and a young girl (Linda) gets caught up in the mess, through some fairies she meets who get her involved in a dangerous, yet exhilarating, drug. Eventually, Linda learns she is half-Fairy, and ends up getting further involved in the attempt of the attempted removal of the evil queen.
This book isn’t about the plot, really, so much as it is about character pieces – which Carey excels at in this book, especially character interactions. Linda, at times, like any teenager, is completely unfair to all of those around her, but she is never unbelievably so – her actions all seem drenched in reality, even if she is hanging out with fairies.
John Bolton’s art is strong – but the photo-realism gets a bit much sometimes, especially when it looks like he is casting panels not by the character, but by what pose he wants a character to use. It is sorta disorienting at times. For instance, while I give Bolton credit for the transformation he does later in the book to Ava, he also seems to have,rather than done a bit of “if you have someone dress differently, they can look a lot different,” just simply “recast” the character of Ava. That being said, while he seems to be fishing for good poses – when he DOES get those good poses, the resulting pages are stunning.
A drawback to the book is the portrayal of Linda’s best friend, Jeff. I think he really gets short shrift in the book, characterization-wise. Now that I think about it, the drug-dealing fairy that Linda gets involved with isn’t exactly the deepest of souls. Heck, no man in the comic is all that deep. Perhaps that is intentional on Carey’s part? He DOES have the “good” Queen state, “About the souls of men, I am as ignorant as you.”
The fact that I use quotes around good is another nice bit by Carey – the “good” Queen has her own problems – she just happens to be a significant improvement over the old one (who we are introduced to early in the book in a tremendous action scene that is evocative of the opening scene in Star Wars and the introduction of Darth Vador).
While, as I mentioned, this book is not about the action, really, when there ARE action sequences, Bolton illustrates them wonderfully, and Carey sets it all up quite well. I especially loved the way that the old queen escaped from imprisonment, and how her escape was directly tied to other story in the book, regarding the new drug (that Linda’ blood is used to make – which we also see a nice reveal regarding – was it purely coincidence that Linda met up with these particular fairies?)
All in all, this is a nice adventure tale, with a lot of nice character moments, and good (and sometimes stunning) painted artwork by John Bolton. It is also strong enough of a story that I think these characters could easily return again in the future. A job well done by Mike Carey.
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