Western Comics: Valor Anthology (English)

November 11th, 2015

ValorWhether they begin “Once upon a time…” or “Mukashi, mukashi…,” fairy tales all begin some time a long time ago, quite often in places without real names. The kingdoms are feudal, evil mostly comes in the form of magic and/or giant beasts that must be defeated and slayed. And, as so many people have commented so many times, they usually star a young man who achieves greatness…and gets the girl as a reward. If you’re an active, self-willed young lady, this can become irritating over time. You start looking around and you find the story of Vasalisa, who uses wits and luck to overcome the witch Baba Yaga, read Barbara Walker’s Feminist Fairy Tales or more contemporary stories like Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch. In fact, it’s hard to not roll one’s eyes at the idea of reworking fairy tales as, by now, it seems to have been done to death. If you’re a gay girl, there’s even Melinda Lo’s Ash, to give Cinderella a much cooler lover than a prince with a shoe fetish.

In Valor, a Kickstarter funded anthology, 24 creators take a look at stories that we know, unravel them, rethink them, revamp them, reweave them and sometimes just create something wholly new and amazing. The collection spans multiple cultures, with both prose and graphic stories.

Some of the stories are merely riffs on well-known tales, such as the above-mentioned story of “Vasalisa,” retold by Kadi Fedoruk or the “Crane Wife,” rendered here by Alex Singer and Jayd Ait-Kaci, and some are wholly original tales, such as the prose “Finette” by Megan Lavey-Heaton and Ran Brown or the gorgeous no-text graphic “Nautilus” by Ash Barnes and Elena “Yamino” Babarich.

Several stories are reworkings of timeless and well-known stories. Of these, my two favorites were “The Steadfast Automaton” again by Alex Singer and Jayd Ait-Kaci, which was a steampunk/scifi version of the Constant Tin Soldier by Hans Christian Anderson with heavy shades of Offenbach’s opera, Tales of Hoffman…and “Goldie Locks,” by Joanne Webster and Isabelle Melançon, a clever and fun riff on the classic tale of breaking and entering.

So, while it may seem that this anthology has “been done,” I’d argue that there can never, ever be enough versions of timeless tales. Heck, I wrote a series of  Sailor Moon/Arthurian Legend mashups. How can there *ever* be too many reworkings of archetypes?! And in the case of Valor, we have certainly not seen this version of these fairytales done this way before.

There is a nice selection of sexualities in the collection, as well. Some of the heroines get a prince, others get a princess and all get themselves which, in many ways, is the best ending of all.

Ratings:

Overall – 9

You can buy Valor online, and frankly, I think you should. It’s an entertaining collection full of things you’ve never read before – even if you have read them before. ^_^

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5 Responses

  1. Kathryn says:

    I agree 100% with you that this is a wonderful book! It’s beautifully published and full of gorgeous vibrant colors. Surprisingly for me – I’m usually wary of fiction included in comic anthologies – I enjoyed the prose stories too.

    I’m at the point in my life where most of my friends have kids, and so I ended up ordering a few copies of Valor for Christmas. There is not a mean or evil page in this book, which is definitely suitable for being read aloud to children of not-yet-fully-literate ages.

    Because it’s so kid-friendly, I think there was a minor kerfluffle related to the Kickstarter project wherein a few backers received their books and were apparently horrified to find that some of the princesses liked other princesses. In my reading of the anthology, the sexualities and gender identities of the characters were presented as such a non-issue (which is so! refreshing!) that I was surprised anyone would make a big deal out of it. The editors were total bosses and handled the situation like mature adults, so there were no explosions of rage on the internet, but…

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that Valor is both inclusive *and* a good book to put in the hands of a kid. It’s really special!

  2. Alex Martin says:

    I bought the book as soon as could. Fun times. Some of the stories need to be longer so I can read more of these cool worlds and women.

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