Funny how a comparison between two texts can be enough to compel you to read something. Such was the case with Penny Dora, which I had read somewhere that it’d appeal to fans of Coraline. While this first issue lacks the same level darkness that tinges all of Gaiman’s stories, it does merit the comparison thanks to its focus on telling a story about a kid that appeals to both kids and adults. Winner in the category of most self-explanatory comic title this week, Penny Dora and the Wishing Box is about the titular Penny, and the Wishing Box that comes into her life on Christmas Day. Living in a cookie-cutter suburban neighborhood who’s only individualistic quality are the mailboxes that dot the streets, Penny lives with her mother in what appears to be a content household other than the absence of Penny’s dad due to her parent’s divorce.
When they open a present that reveals the faded old box, Penny’s mom takes it as a joke played on them by her ex, and tells Penny to throw it away. Penny sneaks it back in though and with the box open, wishes for Christmas to not be over, a wish the box grants, providing Penny with another round of presents. Soon after, Penny discovers the box’s magical nature, and is terrified due its lust to fulfill her demands, repeating ‘What do you wish for?” while having changed appearance. Penny tosses the box away, and forgets about it until a playdate the next day, things wrapping up with the box granting another individual a wish.
While Penny Dora doesn’t hold much in the way of an original take on the wish-granting item sub-genre (not yet at least), it was a delight to read. Writer Michael Stock, working from a story his daughter wrote, does superb work capturing the voice of a ten-year old while also elegantly employing a narrator that never overwhelms the story, but frames the overall narrative in a way reminiscent of classic Christmas tales. Sina Grace does wonderful work here, grounding her style with realistically designed characters and showing Penny and her mom with a wide range of emotions, some as subtle as conveying annoyance with only a half-concealed face. Plus, she draws a hell of a cute cat.
In a week that saw Image also publish the bawdy adult comedy The Humans, Penny Dora is evidence of the publisher’s desire to appeal to a wide range of audiences. Hopefully the breadth of their risks pays off, and young and older readers manage to check out this fun and beautiful story.
Writer: Michael Stock Artist: Sina Grace Publisher: Image Comics Price:$2.99 Release Date: 11/5/14 Format: Print/Digital