Rapunzel’s Revenge

25 11 2008


Rapunzel’s Revenge is written by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale (her husband) and illustrated by Nathan Hale (no relation). Shannon Hale has written five fictional novels for teens (and won a few awards for them) but this is her first work in a comic format.

Nathan Hale has written and illustrated two other works; The Devil You Know and Yellowbelly and Plum Go To School and provided illustrations for Balloon On the Moon.

Published in North American in 2008 by Bloomsbury, Rapunzel’s Revenge is recommended for audiences between 10-14.

Rapunzel’s Revenge is a fun western and fairytale/fantasy genre mash up. The story’s magic is of a shamanistic-harnessing-of-life-energy variety and is utilized by a very few characters and so contributes more of a narrative enabling framework. The most of events of the story and the actions of the protagonists are grounded in the physical, more realistic and pragmatic, western adventure context. The writers have a lot of fun with the potential of both genres’ conventions without relying too much on either to provide easy plot device resolutions. The story has really excellent pacing and despite the staying conscientiously age-appropriate the two principles have engaging and nuanced personalities (to the extent that character development is desirable in an energetic adventure).

The art is much better then might be expected considering the genre and intended audience. Comics for younger audiences often have over or under designed pages, utilize excessive palettes and are too visually conflicted. Comics have great potential to be vivacious and dynamic but it shouldn’t be assumed that children or young adults can’t respond well to, or deserve, art that is attractive, nuanced and well-balanced. Nathen Hale is not a comic artist that takes a patronizing approach to drawing for young adults. His page designs are creative but utilitarian and the use of color is thoughtful and vivid – even at its most fantasist it never tips into giddy over-saturation.

Early in the book there is a nice set of pages [16,17] that have very little text and rely on the art to convey the emotional weight of the story. Rapunzel sees her real mother for the first time since her early childhood. Hale uses very effective panel-within-panel illustrations to match imagery of unfolding, present, events with some very beautiful but simple illustrations of remembered events. The two-panel sets contain both a color and sepia panel and then Hale follows those images with another page with long, narrow alternating color and sepia panels. This succeeds in conveying a complex, very emotional event, visually and the way Hale has handled the scene makes immediate intellectual and emotional sense. It’s the comic medium working at its most effective and it’s great to see this kind of talent and thought going into a comic for younger readers.

I think the age range recommended by the publisher is a bit limiting. While the content and reading level is probably fine for most readers between 10 and 14 this story is the sort of adventure that has the potential to appeal to older readers.

Hale, Shannon (w), Dean Hale (w), and Nathan Hale(i). Rapunzel’s Revenge (2008), Bloomsbury U.S.A. Children’s Books. ISBN-10:159990070X