Feb 8 2015
There’s something nostalgic about reading media that takes a fresh spin on old stories.
Growing up, I’m sure we’ve all encountered the story of Alice in Wonderland. It’s a timeless tale of a young girl taking a journey though a secret world, half marked by imagination and half marked by serious social constructs. And oddly enough, this story works, both back in 1865 when it was first published and now in 2015. But how can it survive for so long?
The transition isn’t easy, but worth it.
Micheline Hess’ comic series Malice in Ovenland is one of the many adaptations and reimaginings of the classic tale that helps continue Lewis Carroll’s legacy. But what makes Hess’ version stick out is that it does something that is cool and revolutionary – she centers her story around the spunky heroine, Lilly Brown. Lilly is the kind of heroine that I’d want all the little Black girls in my life to read about – she’s sarcastic, brave, makes the best exaggerated faces, and is cool without trying very hard. She’s a young girl and acts as such – she pouts when her friend makes cooler summer vacation plans than she does, and side eyes her mother’s weird “eggplant puree” when it’s served for dinner. But she’s the perfect hero to lead this imaginary tale.
The first issue dives into the story – bored Lilly Brown stuck at home for summer vacation. While doing chores one day, she finds herself transported to a secret world in – get this – inside of her kitchen stove. She fell down a long tunnel that smelled of “2000 year old pork skin grease”. By the second issue, we know her mission: she must fight her way to escape the Oven Frites and find her way back home.
I found that not only was Lilly enough to sell me on Malice in Ovenland, but how Micheline made it so easy to be immerse into the world. The Oven Frites were great, I was equally terrified and entertained by the absurdity of them. I’m also intrigued by Crumb – he seems like he’s going to be a great ally for Lilly. And what’s up with the Ghost Chef? Is he going to be more harm than help for Lilly?
I was on the edge of my seat by the end of Issue 2, and I can’t wait to see what happens next. Kudos to Micheline for creating such a great Black heroine, crafting an intricate, imaginative world, and making Malice in Ovenland such an entertaining read.