Frakes, Colleen – Woman King

April 23, 2010



Woman King

Here’s another excellent graphic novel from Colleen, and it’s further evidence (as if any were needed) that the Center for Cartoon Studies is doing some excellent work with its students.  This is the story of the uprising of the bears against society, as one bear in particular (the one on the cover missing an eye) smells some fish being cooked, wanders innocently into a camp to eat them, and it attacked for his troubles.  He vows then and there to take back the forest, and soon runs into a little girl (age 3) who isn’t afraid of him.  Taking this for a sign, he gives her armor and puts her in charge of the first attack against the humans.  Obviously she doesn’t know a thing about fighting, but the bears prevail and decide that they need to take back all the forests in the world, which brings us to the rest of the book.  It details her growing up with the bears, killing all the humans that they find, and it shows her general ambivalence… until she sees up close how humans live.  I’ve said more than enough already, but this book really is remarkable.  It somehow manages to be, at the same time, a story about growing up, about myth and animal society, about right and wrong, the use of force and when fighting for the sake of fighting leaves all rationality behind.  Colleen deftly displays these contradictions by showing a good human who only wants to paint the quiet scenes between battles (and is killed for his troubles), a stag who only wants her to learn and a young boy who, if this were a Disney movie, would be an obvious love interest.  She does an excellent job with the “love interest” by keeping the story going firmly where it should go, so kudos to her for that.  It’s such a damned near perfect book that I feel compelled to at least complain about one thing: the missing eye of the lead bear.  Not to get all technical on you, but if a character in your story loses an eye, the same eye should be missing for the whole story.  The lead bear has his missing eye drift back and forth from the left side of his head to the right and back over and over again, to the point where it was an unnecessary distraction to the rest of the story.  Not enough to ruin it, or even seriously damage it, just enough to get me to wonder how such an obvious mistake could have gotten through.  Eh, after two excellent books I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she was going for the old timey cartoon look, where things like that would happen all the time.  This graphic novel is also only $7, is still on recycled paper, and is still a real bargain.