By Oliver Gerlach
Audrey’s Magic Nine is a charming all-ages fantasy adventure that’s genuinely worth checking out for anyone, adults and children alike. It’s clearly targeted at kids, but there’s a lot of excellent craft and endearing adventure in here for adults too.
The book starts out with that most familiar of children’s fantasy tropes: the quiet orphan stuck in an abusive foster home who gradually gets sucked into a bright world of fantasy characters. It’s a solid and recognizable plot, and somehow even the darker parts of it are rendered in a cheerful and reassuring manner by the entire creative team. Overall, this book just feels friendly. It’s a good time for anyone, and it gently ramps up the weirdness at a very accessible pace throughout this first volume.
As well as being fun and friendly, Audrey’s Magic Nine is notable for its quieter messages, the things that readers can learn from it. To start with, it’s unusual to see a children’s fantasy story with so much casual racial diversity across the entire cast, both main and background. It feels reflective of the world, and that’s always a good thing. Beyond the diversity, this book also features gently educational content, encouraging kids (and even adults) to think about issues differently; homelessness is the most prominently addressed issue in this first volume, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see later volumes encourage kinder thinking towards other overlooked groups.
Huddleston and Bailey’s art is bright, friendly, and cartoony throughout, with clean and vibrant colors and a sense of boundless energy and enthusiasm. This is a book that looks like a cartoon, and just feels alive and bursting with energy and creativity. It’s also a fairly substantial chunk of the comic; this feels like a worthwhile collection of story and one that satisfies greatly. It’s also got a handful of bonus short stories that make up a fair chunk of content, without ever feeling like they should either be removed or incorporated into the main story. It’s nice to have extra stories that feel like genuine extras in an already worthwhile book, and all of these have a great deal of charm.
Audrey’s Magic Nine is charming and energetic throughout, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to any child with an interest in comics or even any adult looking for fun and joy in an increasingly dark medium. It’s a good time and one that feels as though all of the people involved are working on it from genuine passion and love for their characters and world.
Audrey’s Magic Nine vol. 1
Writer: Michelle Wright
Artist: Courtney Huddleston
Colors: Tracy Bailey
Publisher: Penny-Farthing Productions