Originally I wasn’t going to review The War at Ellsmere; it was to be a book that I simply read for pleasure. The problem is that I just like Faith Erin Hicks’ storytelling far too much not to talk about it and what I found really impressive was that this was some of her early work. I know that she’s grown as a creator since this, but that didn’t change the fact that it’s an impressive and entertaining story. So what’s it about? Well we start by meeting Juniper or “Jun” as she goes by, as she makes her way to her first day at an all-girl’s private school. She’s the recipient of their scholarship this year, but due to her mother’s work schedule she had to take a taxi to get to school. She meets the organizer of the scholarship Ms. Bishop and she shows her around and then to her room.
Jun has a habit of talking to herself and during one of these conversations she meets her roommate Cassie. Jun messes up with Cassie right away as she unintentionally tells her she’s not there to make friends, which sends Cassie out of the room. Later at the assembly for the new school year we meet Emily and her two cronies. It’s clear that Emily is the queen bee and when Cassie goes over to attempt to make friends for the billionth time in a row, she’s called an “orphan” and told to go away. After observing Emily for a little while longer Jun snickers and catches the attention of Emily.
Emily takes a quick jab at Jun thinking she has her number, but to her surprise Jun walks over and lays out everything that she could possibly make fun of her for and basically asks, “What else do you have?” It’s a great scene and it sends Emily and her cronies out of the assembly. It also reintroduces Jun to Cassie as they quickly become friends, but now they both have a target painted on their back and Emily has them in her sights.
The story is pretty cut and dry. You kind of know how it will end because if it ended any other way you’d be really pissed off. It’s a happy ending for sure, but it’s how it gets there that is the incredible part.
Hicks really is an incredible storyteller. With this story she’s not quite relying on her artistic ability to convey all the emotions and feelings of the characters, but towards the end of the story she definitely begins to. The conclusion between Jun, Cassie and Emily is mostly without words and pretty damn spectacular because of it.
It’s hard not to love Hicks’ dialogue. Now only do all the characters sound and act like real girls, but they each have their own unique voice. I would say that Jun is an incredible role model to any young girl and hell I wish I had her gumption when I was that age. Also with the character of Emily she doesn’t come off as a hollow mean girl. In fact any and all comparisons to the film of that name are completely miss guided. Never once do the characters fuss about boys, clothing or popularity. In fact their main competition is grades and I found that far more realistic having known girls like that in my life.
Again I was just going to read this story because I’ve been meaning to buy it since picking up Hicks’ Friends With Boys which is definitely one of her best works. But something about this story made me want to review it and recommend it to whoever would end up reading this book. If you like Hicks’ work then you don’t want to miss out on this story, but if you’re looking for a story with strong female characters that never once dip into the stereotypes that comics usually brand them with, then look no further than The War at Ellsmere.
Writer/Artist/Creator: Faith Erin Hicks Publisher: SLG Publishing Price: $12.95 Format: OGN, Paperback