By Laramie Martinez
I first read Neil Gaiman’s “Troll Bridge” in college. I was waiting in a friend of a friend’s house, and while I silently judged my new acquaintance based upon the titles on their bookshelf, I noticed a copy of “Smoke and Mirrors” off in a corner. It turns out she had found it on the street and was happy to give it to me. This gesture greatly improved my opinion of her. Looking back, I remember the “Troll Bridge” as one of the stories that stuck in my head well after I had finished devouring the collection. I was in my early 20’s and had just tasted my first feelings of true regret and isolation. I remember relating to the narrator in a way that was almost uncomfortable. I remember thinking, “Is this the road I’m on? Ugh… go outside, go into a bar, and at least drink in public.” Now I’m not saying this story changed my life or anything, but I do remember it being a good little yarn. And when I saw that it was up for review with Colleen Doran as the artist, I thought it had the potential to be a good comic as well.If you’ve read any of Gaiman’s other work, the structure of this story should be familiar to you. Fable-like, but told through the voice of a modern man, this story fits well within the genre of adult fairy tale. Not in the sense that it is a retelling of a story with more adult themes, but more that it is a story in which the moral is a bit murkier than something you’d find in a children’s book. It poses bigger questions. Rather than the traditional cautionary tale of “do this or bad things will happen,” this story asks, are you ever truly innocent? Can you ever truly be moral? Pretty big, unsettling questions for a story about a boy who encounters a troll under a bridge and continues do so for the rest of his life.
But enough about the story, what had me most excited was the art. Comics are a visual medium, so the quality of the book is often determined by the quality of the art. Although it took me a little time to get used to, I have to say that by the end of the book I came to respect Doran’s style. I am more inclined to like an artist who is doing something different, than someone who is playing it safe. Her depiction of the Troll is outstanding. In each of his appearances she manages to capture the character in a different light, making him a different type of terrifying each time. She shifts tones throughout the story so by the end of it; you have the feeling as if you’ve just watched a sunset. Going from the almost garish colors of childhood to using the grays, blacks, and purples of adulthood. In addition to changing color schemes, the world seems to fade out of focus as the protagonist gets older, his field of vision narrowing until all he can really is what’s in front of him. It is a very clever way to bring the audience into his headspace. All that being said, if you’re considering buying this book take a quick flip through the first few pages, if that isn’t your thing this isn’t for you.
If you like taking chances on experimental art styles, are a fan of Gaiman or are just looking for a comic to fill that dark and strange corner of your bookshelf, give this one a chance.
Writer: Neil Gaiman
Artist: Colleen Doran
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics