Review: I Hate Fairyland #4

Recovering from the seemingly deadly spat with her would-be quest replacement, a bubbly girl named Happy, Gertrude is forced to once again redouble her efforts, not in actually finding the key to escape Fairyland and go home, of course, but to “fuck shit up.” As you do... With Happy’s quest proving to be much more... lubricated than Gertrude’s own 37-year sojourn, our strung-out heroine decides not to beat the bubbly little brat to the punch, but rather, to enlist the evil of Fairyland, and punch the little brat to death. Along the way, we not only get the first tete-a-tete between ‘Rude and her rival, incensed Fairyland monarch, Queen Cloudia, as well as a twist in their relationship, but also a whistle-stop tour of Fairyland, as she and Happy vie for the ultimate prize: a trip back home.

After something of a down-turn in the action last time, as well as a worrying waring-thin of its ongoing series joke, I Hate Fairyland comes back in a big way in this, the penultimate issue of its first arc. Despite myself, perhaps, I have enjoyed the absolute dogshit out of this book, for its subversive humor and over-the-top presentation, but also for the surprising depth of its world-building and character work.

I-Hate-Fairyland-#4-1The (dis)parity between Gertrude’s jaded desperation and Happy’s annoyingly buoyant optimism, for example, is wickedly at odds here, and it really adds a new and fun dynamic to the story. In a way, it makes me think of the difference between comic fandom’s reaction to comics that are geared mostly at children but consumed mostly by adults and my own: abject excitement vs. resigned exasperation. And yet, Young and his team present that contrast in a framework of a legitimately entertaining riot of a story, which, while trussed-up as such, eschews the simplistic moral platitudes and maudlin sentiment of other visually-similar books, for an unrepentant, even willful sense of gallows glee. It’s a frolic through Fuck Yous, and I love it.

Speaking of visuals, this may be my favorite issue of I Hate Fairyland yet, thanks mostly to its dynamism. One of the things Young has done, and continues to do so well in this story -- influenced, no doubt, by his time in Oz -- is the way he leads us through the different realms of this world, be they unnervingly vibrant or, as we see Fairyland’s darker underbelly this time, decidedly more fangorious.

Once again, juxtaposing those two sides by alternately traipsing and slogging through Happy and Gertrude’s stories, respectively, is an illustrative stroke of brilliance, in every sense of the word. I’m not sure which side of Fairyland I like better: the bright pastoral sprawl of places like the pillow fort kingdom of Pillopolis, or the nauseatingly vivid sliminess of the Peaks of the Snoring Snotties. Conceptually, both prove to be imaginatively fertile grounds, even in the quick glimpses we get here. I would love to spend more time going through this world... and watching Gertrude delightedly vivisect everything in it.

Colorist Jean-Francois Beaulieu really shines (if you’ll pardon the pun) this issue, with an indeed bright palette that absolutely captures the different atmospheres of this world; his work here is as dynamic as Young’s thickly-lined, iconically cartoonish direction and is the perfect complement to the story. Similarly is the lettering work of Nate Piekos, who pulls off a lot of neat tricks, both within and without his speech bubbles; he has a great sense of space, particularly in such an ostensibly art-driven book as this, as well as a great sense of humor in his sound effects and textual punctuations. Just a fantastic job all around.

I Hate Fairyland got my nod for one of the best books of 2015, and if it keeps up its pace, its fun and its humor -- which, again, I thought would wear out, but comes back in a big breath of fresh air this time -- it will continue to be a highlight of 2016.

Score: 4/5

I Hate Fairyland #4 Writer/Artist: Skottie Young Colorist: Jean-Francois Beaulieu Letterer: Nate Piekos Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.50 Release Date: 01/20/16 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital