"Penny Dora and the Wishing Box" #1 by Michael Stock and Sina Grace is the sort of comic that exudes a certain amount of charm. With a fairly simple premise (and which is adapted off of an idea that Stock's 8-year old daughter came up with), it's easy to follow. But as a result, it's hard to keep from thinking that the second issue is going to either make or break this series.
"Penny Dora and the Wishing Box" #1 follows through on its title as promised; Penny finds a strange gift on the front door right before Christmas, and inside is a mysterious wooden box that turns out to grant wishes. While the wishes in this issue are both benign enough, it seems like Penny is right to find herself slightly unnerved by the experience...
What's interesting about "Penny Dora and the Wishing Box" #1 is that you could use this comic as a springboard for both an all-ages series as well as one that skews slightly older. The premise is one that works in just about any direction; you can make it sweet, funny, eerie, scary, spooky, or downright horrific. With that said, "Penny Dora and the Wishing Box" #1 doesn't seem to have fully settled into any one tone. It feels somewhat light, but at the same time we're also only at the tip of the iceberg. The wishes here are fairly innocent, offering up genuinely good things to those who have inadvertently made a request to the mysterious box. But it'll be Stock's second issue that really solidifies the series, whether it stays at this slightly lighter and cheery level or if things suddenly plunge into a darker tone.
Grace's art is particularly adorable, which goes a long way towards the lighter tone of the comic. I like how he draws his characters; the wistful looks on both Penny and her mother's faces as they think of their own wishes when they first discover the box is a perfect example. They're each staring off into nowhere, that look of just a hint of hope as they do so. The thought balloon above Penny's head with the childlike image of her parents getting back together sells it too; by deliberately changing the style it lets us really feel like we've gotten inside her thought process, a perfect contrast to her mother's wish for money. Grace still gets the slightly spooky parts working here too. When she's looking under her bed while still on top of it, the way that Grace has her head upside down and her hand pulling up the blankets while the eerie glow shows up... it's that moment when things go from 100% cheerful to just that touch of, "uh oh."
"Penny Dora and the Wishing Box" #1 is a nice start, but I'm actually a little more eager to see the next issue. Once the route for the series is a little more firmly nailed down, it'll get expectations in the right place. Until then, though, this is a little light and predictable, but still pleasant enough that it's worth taking a look at that second issue.