“All that stuff about the pleasures and dangers of fantasy, and what are stories for?” // Review of “Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen” by Dylan Horrocks

Title: Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen
Author: Dylan Horrocks
Genre: Graphic novel/fantasy/sci-fi
Date Read: 25/11/2016 – 26/11/2016
Rating: ★★

Review:

This was an interesting book and I admire it for what it’s trying to do and the messages it is trying to convey, but I felt it got a little too bogged down in that and forgot to tell and interesting story at the same time.

Sam Zabel is an aspiring cartoonist, carving out a living writing bad superhero scripts that he hates, all the while trying to find the inspiration to write something truly incredible. Then one day, he comes across an issue of an old New Zealand comic from the 50s, and when he sneezes, finds himself transported to the world inside its pages. What follows are a whole lot of questions Sam is not sure he knows the answer to.

The themes of this book are ones worth considering. It touches on the objectification of women in comics, and how far can we allow the “it’s just fantasy” argument to go before fantasies that are presented in and absorbed through comics and other mass popular culture media become problematic. These are important things to consider, and I appreicated Horrocks bringing them up.

Unfortunately, I found the storytelling a bit bland. Particularly at the start, there’s a lot of telling rather than showing. You’d expect a graphic novel to manage that better than a novel written in prose! The characters were all fairly two-dimensional character archetypes, and I didn’t feel that they each had their own unique voice. While obiously the artwork made them easy to tell apart, if I had been reading this in prose, it would have been one of those cases where I could barely distinguish them.

While this was a good idea, there was too much emphasis on the ~point, and not enough on storytelling to hold my interest for too long. I would recommend this if you are interested in the themes, but not so much if you’re just interested in reading some more graphic novels.


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