When chubby, geeky Wylder Wallace spills lunch on cool and aloof Addy Crowe at Toronto’s Comicon, she dashes to the bathroom, leaving behind the latest issue of her uncle’s steampunk comic hit: FLYNN GOSTER in GOLD RUSH TRAIN. Wylder, a fan of the Flynn comics, opens this new one eagerly, astounded to see the girl who was just yelling at him inside the comic. Fascinated, he follows Addy into the bathroom, and the adventure begins…
Is there a personality conflict? Oh, yes. Addy wants to go home; Wylder wants to stay and explore the world of Viminy Crowe’s comic book. Do things go wrong? You bet they do, from the very start. All the while the actual comic book story is going on around them. The train carries a fortune from the Yukon goldfields, and both dashing Flynn Goster (hero of a thousand disguises and thief extraordinaire) and villainous Professor Aldous Lickpenny (criminal genius, aided by malevolent robots but somewhat hampered by doltish nephew Nevins) have plans to steal the gold. There’s romance too — Flynn’s old flame, the brilliant aviatrix, Isadora Fortuna, is traveling across Canada with her balloon, and her strangely familiar protégée Nelly Day. Addy and Wylder navigate the story with the aid of the comic book itself. Every page turn sends them to a different setting, from the Banff Springs Hotel to an alligator-wrestling arena in Florida. But when they finally find a portal back to the real world, catastrophe follows …
If you have never attended a ‘Con’ of any kind … you really should. They are a unique experience, especially if they have something to do with a rabid fan base like a Sci-Fi show (ahem *Firefly*), a graphic novel or a video game. There are CosPlayers (individuals in costumes related to their subject of fascination), LARP-ers (Live Action Role-Players) and dyed-in-the-wool fans who have memorized the minutia of every scene. It’s uniquely bizarre, a huge amount of fun, and the setting for Marthe Jocelyn and Richard Scrimger’s latest read. The pair vividly capture the essence of these events as they plunge you into a story about two unique comic fans who are, through a series of mysterious events, thrown into the pages of their favourite comic book and forced to deal with the consequences.
Before I go any further, I have to give credit to the pair of authors for creating such great characters. Addy is a strong, vivid female character who isn’t afraid to speak her mind and who loves comics unabashedly. She is also part of the creative team behind said comic – her uncle is the artist and author, and she works with him. Huzzah for female comic-writing role models! She’s also totally cool, and you can tell that Wylder thinks she’s pretty great… even if she does give him a bit of a rough go at times. Wylder is very much a classic comic book geek (and I mean that with affection); part of the fun of the story is seeing how he comes into his own and finds a core of resilience and strength during some tough situations.
This is definitely a fast-paced story, and I found my head was whirling at times with all the transitions between scenes. There’s so much going on that less-confident readers may find themselves a little dazzled by everything: gators, gold rush, train heists, chase scenes, evil scientists, crazed robots, you name it, Addy and Wylder face it down! It’s pretty easy to fall into the rhythm of the story, though, and each page flip prepares you for the leap to the next situation. I’m hoping that this is the first in a series, because there are a lot of threads that could be picked up in later books, especially with Isadora and Flynn.
Some of the biggest delights of this novel are the illustrations, deftly executed by Claudia Davila. The switch between the text and comic book world could have been clunky; in Davila’s hands, the transition is seamless and the illustrations come alive before the reader’s eyes. I would love to see a full-scale rendition of the comic – it would be amazing!
More and more I’m hearing laments from parents about how their kids just don’t want to make the switch from graphic novels to “real” books, and my tongue is getting sore from being bitten all the time. Let’s focus on the fact that their kids are reading … albeit not what the parents want them to read … and that said kids are loving what they read and want more of the same. To that end, I think Viminy Crowe’s Comic Book is the perfect read for both parties – enough well-drawn graphics to keep the most discerning comics fan happy, with a wildly paced story-line that careens along, dragging the reader along with it from adventure to adventure. Here’s hoping that there’s a sequel, because I for one would love to see what Addy and Wylder get up to next.
Viminy Crowe’s Comic Book was given to me by the author, and no review was expected. It is published by Tundra Books, a division of Random House of Canada, and is available for sale from your friendly indie bookstore and other fine retailers. ISBN: 9781770494794, 336 pages.