wJan 4, 2009

The War at Ellsmere

I should start by saying that I have a lot of love for Faith Erin Hicks. I love her online comics, Demonology 101 and Ice. I always look forward to updates at her sketchblog and random tidbits at her regular livejournal).

I've been super excited about The War at Ellsmere since she announced it, because hey - girls in uniforms attending a boarding school built in the 19th century. Good stuff!

It didn't disappoint. I bought her book Zombies Calling last year, and this one is far, far better. The pages are longer, the book is longer, the story has a plot, and I think the artwork is even better.

I like Faith's own description, so we'll go with that:
The War at Ellsmere is the story of Juniper, an aggressively self-sufficient 13 year old who wins a scholarship to the prestigious (and slightly creepy) Ellsmere Academy, a girls' school which Jun hopes will gain her easier entry into ivy league post-secondary schools. While at the school Jun makes friends with a crazy girl named Cassie who thinks there's a mythical monster living in the forest next door, and offends the school's alpha student, a dead-eyed, probably dead-souled girl named Emily. Jun's defiance of Emily leads to an escalating war between the two of them, which finally results in ... well, you'll just have to read the book to find out, won't you?

There are a few things I didn't like....for one thing, the title seems overly dramatic given that in the end, it was just a school girls' spat. When Faith started tying in the story about the founders' good/evil sons who were lost, I just....expected a lot more from their involvement in the plot, given her sometimes beautifully complicated plots like Demonology 101. The role of the founder's family in the story seemed a little off, I guess. I got all excited, and then they weren't ever mentioned again.

Still, I liked the way the book ended, with Juniper telling Emily, "You deserve to be here," and everyone still attending the school. The book is open to a sequel, but it sounds like Faith is going to be writing graphic novels for a different independent publisher, now. Maybe her future books will be easier to get a hold of!

One thing that's kind of weird is that while I love Faith's artwork in this book (really, the inking and stuff is great), I liked some of the concept art a lot, and was expecting more like that.
Like this, this, this, and this (love the lower-left head shot). Oh well!

While I feel that The War at Ellsmere is a lot better than Zombies Calling, I still feel like Faith hasn't yet released in book-form the magnificence her Internet fans already know she's capable of, in terms of telling stories. This is probably due mostly to length....I think Demonology 101 has something crazy, like over 1,000 pages or something. So it makes sense that it would be more complex! Someone give her a deal for like, 15 books or something. That'd be great!

You can read an 11-page preview of The War at Ellsmere online.

Teenage-appropriate comics written for girls. They are unfortunately rare, so I think books like War at Ellsmere are needed. I know that if I had read it when I was 12, I would have loved it to pieces. I think I still will; I can easily see this becoming a quick comfort reread for me.

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scribbled mystickeeper at 7:57 PM

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