Oct 13, 2009

Wonderland by Tommy Kovac and Sonny Liew

Wonderland by Tommy Kovac and Sonny Liew

Very soon the Rabbit noticed Alice, as she went hunting about, and called out to her in an angry tone, `Why, Mary Ann, what ARE you doing out here? Run home this moment, and fetch me a pair of gloves and a fan! Quick, now!' And Alice was so much frightened that she ran off at once in the direction it pointed to, without trying to explain the mistake it had made.

`He took me for his housemaid,' she said to herself as she ran. `How surprised he'll be when he finds out who I am! But I'd better take him his fan and gloves--that is, if I can find them.'
From Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Tommy Kovac and Sonny Liew's Wonderland is a gorgeously illustrated graphic novel that revisits the world Lewis Carroll created. But instead of Alice, the protagonist is Mary Ann, the housemaid the White Rabbit mistakes her for in the original book. When Kelly from The Written World and I noticed we'd read it at the same time by coincidence (it's probably the fifth time something like that happens this year, seriously), we decided to review it together. This time we used a conversation format, and I'm posting part two of our discussion. Please make sure you visit Kelly and read part one first; otherwise this won't make much sense!

Ana: Those were the first two I happened to think of, but there are definitely plenty of others these days. I liked Wicked, but I haven't read the other series yet. I tend to love retellings, but I notice that what determines if they work for me is whether or not they add something new to the original story. One of the reasons why I liked Wicked so much is because Maguire's Oz is both instantly familiar and a completely new, rich, detailed world - you said that you liked the idea of it, so I'll assume we agree on this! I think that building something new out of a literary work we already know takes as much skill and creativity as creating a world from scratch.

Wonderland by Tommy Kovac and Sonny Liew

Which is why it saddens me when people say that authors who do it are lazy or just trying to cash in on someone else's success. This isn't to say, of course, that this isn't true in some cases. I'm not going to be mean and say that Wonderland is one of them, but it disappointed me that Kovac didn't add anything new to Carroll's world. I loved revisiting, sure, but I'd have loved it even more if I had been able to see a side of Wonderland I've never seen before.

Re-reading my answer reminded me of Peter David's lovely Tigerheart, which reimagines Barrie's Neverland. So I'm going to go ahead and recommend it to you and to anyone reading this. Time for an unoriginal question: what did you think of the ending?

Wonderland by Tommy Kovac and Sonny LiewKelly: Just what I need, another book to add to the wish list! I think that one is on there all ready, though, so maybe I just need to move it up the wish list! I totally get you when you say that something new has to be added to the story in order to make it worthwhile.

As to the answer to the question. I am actually sitting here trying to think about it and mostly coming up blank! I got the book from the library, so I have all ready taken it back. I am trying to remember my original opinion upon the conclusion of the book, though. I really feel nothing! I didn't hate the ending, but I didn't really love it either. I don't find that it really concluded anything. I really hope they are not hoping for a sequel! If the art was the same, I would be so there, but unless they put their creative hats on a sequel is not a good idea at all. Mary Ann is still really the same at the end of the book. She is still obsessed with cleaning and she is still pretty subservient. I don't find that all that much was accomplished with the ending. Really, I just don't feel anything about the ending. When I read the book I enjoyed the few glimpses of familiar characters, Mary Ann drove me crazy, and the art was fantastic. That is my opinion of this book in a nutshell! You?

Ana: Yep, you've summed it up pretty well. I asked you about the ending because it really reinforced my feeling that the story had been kind of pointless. Mary Ann is still the same - she has been instrumental in causing some changes in Wonderland, but I was left with the feeling that it all happened sort of accidentally, and that none of it was of as much consequence as it ought to have been. I was also disappointed that the connection between Mary Ann and Alice that the story hints at is never fully developed. I don't know, maybe part of the problem was that I expected something different.

Wonderland by Tommy Kovac and Sonny Liew

I'm probably beginning to sound like I hated this book, but I really didn't - I just think it's probably better to appreciate it as a quick return to Wonderland and as an Alice on Wonderland art book. And I would recommend it for that alone. I know I'll be returning to it just to look at the art! I'll also definitely look for more work illustrated by Sonny Liew. And so that it doesn't sound like I hated the story so much I vow never to read Tommy Kovac again, let me add that his comics Autumn and Stitch also sound really good.

Kelly: I agree with you. I didn't really hate it either, but it wasn't as good as I was expecting it to be. I want to buy it, really - just so I can look at the pictures! It's a great book for the read-a-thon, actually. You can sort of read the story, look at the pretty pictures, and feel like you accomplished something when you start to get too tired! Consider it a recommendation. Otherwise, I think I have said pretty much everything that I feel needs to be talked about. It wasn't a very long book, so there is not a lot to discuss. This chat style was fun, though! We are going to have to do it again!

Wonderland by Tommy Kovac and Sonny Liew

Ana: I second your recommendation for the read-a-thon, and yes, we'll have to do this again!

Wonderland by Tommy Kovac and Sonny Liew


I ended up taking a bit of an unplanned blogging break these past few days for personal reasons - many thanks to those of you who contacted me to make sure everything was okay. That some of you worried after only five days is probably a sign of how obsessive my blogging habits usually are!

But in all seriousness, I very much appreciate it, and I want to apologize for having been so horrible at responding to comments here and at bloghopping lately. I really don't want to neglect anyone, but...well, I'm sure you know how it is. So even though I hate to do it, I think the only way not to drive myself crazy is to click the dreaded "mark all as read" button in Google Reader, start from scratch this week, and hope I'll be better able to keep up with things in the future. Thank you again for caring!

29 comments:

  1. Ooh I'm glad everything is ok Nymeth! I wanted to contact you but didn't want to seem like the stalking type. :-D And hitting the 'mark all as read' button is really the only choice after a break... :-)

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  2. Sorry if I had it scheduled too early! I had to try and remember what time I would see you online. :)

    Thanks for doing this. I look forward to the next one!

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  3. There are quite a few interesting posts on Alice in Wonderland art over at feuilleton:

    http://www.johncoulthart.com/feuilleton/tag/lewis-carroll/

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  4. Joanna: lol, you wouldn't have! Normally I let people know before I vanish from the face of the blogosphere, but this time it was really unexpected.

    Kelly, it wasn't too early! It's just that I turned the computer on at exactly ten and still had to format everything :P

    Masha: Oooh, Mervyn Peake art!

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  5. It appears that regardless of the originality (or not) of the story line, the artwork is worth looking at. It *is* too bad that Mary Ann remains obsessed with cleaning. On the other hand, she could always find a home with me whenever she wanted!

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  6. We have missed you! Where have you been? Don't answer that, just glad to see you back and reading such lovely books. I just love the graphics for this one. What a fantastic find.

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  7. Don't worry about pressing Mark as read. I think you deserve to. You must be one of the busiest commentors within the blog world.

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  8. I love the artwork!! I wonder if I could get this through the library, so I could look the pictures without spending the money....

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  9. Glad to hear all is well! The illustrations are wonderful, and Alice is always a favorite.

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  10. Welcome back, Ana! I hope everything went well and got sorted out during your blogging break.

    I think I'll pass on this particularly book, though.

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  11. Its a classic story that I never tire of, and I love your review format. James and I did this for Blindness during BBAW, and realized how much geeky fun it is!

    I was wondering where you'd been, but didn't want to press. You are such a presence on here, that it is noticeable when you're gone. Sometimes you need a break for whatever reason. I've been thinking pretty deeply on my lack of balance, and that I am on the computer way too much. I also feel compelled to post daily, which is just ridiculous. I'm going to have to figure this out eventually, or I will be swallowed alive.

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  12. I really enjoyed reading you and Kelly's thoughts on this one.

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  13. I hope everything's alright now. I think you're right when you wrote about author's re-telling stories. Certain stories affect so many readers in so many different ways that there's nothing wrong with a writer re-telling a story. That person may have been affected by a single line or certain character or an unanswered question brought up in the text. Lovely q&a.

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  14. The book looked so promising - too bad it didn't live up to expectations. Don't worry about using the "mark all as read" button - I did it myself after I came back from a 4 day trip. Sometimes you just have to.

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  15. I think I'm going to go ahead and add this one onto ye old wishlist. If for nothing else, then for the art. It seems like you both really liked it!!

    As for the blogging break, we all totally understand. You know that. We all need those sometimes. I've been so so bad about responding to comments lately :( I'm trying to keep up with them now, but I probably have about 80 comments from the last week that I'm just not going to catch up with and that makes me sad.

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  16. I'm glad everything is all right. Real life comes first, and sometimes a break is necessary--and reviving.
    As for this book, much as I adore Alice in Wonderland & all things connected with it, I think I'll pass. The art does look cute, though.

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  17. The illustrations make this look really fun!

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  18. I just saw another review of this book on someone's blog. It looks very Strawberry Shortcake-like to me. Adorable :-)

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  19. Hmm, I think I'll skip this one. The artwork looks good, but I don't really want to read a re-tread of Alice in Wonderland in graphic novel form.

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  20. I've been wondering about your absence, Nymeth! I'm glad to hear things are well with you and that you were on a blogging break. We all need that once in a while! ;)

    Love the illustrations!

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  21. Glad you're back! This does look like a beautiful book, even though there isn't much new.

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  22. Jill: lol! Yeah, she'd be welcome in my house anytime too :P

    Vivienne: It's good to be back! I see that now it's your turn to take a break, though, and I'm going to miss you!

    Beth: The art is very much worth looking at!

    Jenclair: If this had been an art book I'd have loved it with all my heart! As it is I have my reservations, but I still so enjoyed looking at it.

    Amanda: Thanks! And yeah, I wouldn't urge anyone to read it :P

    Sandy: It really is a ton of fun! And thank you so much for the kind words, Sandy! Now that I have a new job, I'll definitely have to find a better way to balance things too, or else I'll going to drive myself crazy.

    Staci, I'm glad to hear it!

    Vasilly: First of all, it's SO good to see you around again <3 And yes, you put it perfectly!

    Kathy: It always makes me feel guilty, but sometimes it just has to be done!

    Chris: The art is absolutely stunning! I'm going to have to do the same and just let a bunch of comments go :( Hopefully we'll both manage to keep up in the future!

    ds: I don't blame you for giving it a pass!

    J.T. Oldfield: The art is seriously awesome!

    Aarti: Other than Kelly's? :P

    Heindenkind: I wouldn't have minded a straightforward adaptation, actually! Just...not a story about a maid obsessed with cleaning :P

    Melody: We definitely do!

    JoAnn: It's certainly lovely to look at!

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  23. I think the illustrations in this book are beautiful, but I also recognize the problems you had with the protagonist and the fact that nothing really new was introduces in this book. I really liked this double review/conversation, and it's neat to have both of your opinions on this book. I have decided that I may check this one out of the library for the pictures alone, but I probably won't buy it. Thanks for the enlightening reviews!

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  24. Gosh I don't think I can ever resist a great art. Oow I soo want to read this book now.

    The joint review is a good idea. I should do that some time. If I can find someone to join review with.

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  25. I was wondering where you went...lol.
    Glad to see you back :O)

    The illustrations on this one are beautiful!
    http://thebookworm07.blogspot.com/

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  26. When I got back from Salt Lake this past weekend I wondered why I didn't have any new posts from you. I was thinking about you and was going to email you when I saw this post. Life has really hit me over the head this week, too. Things slow down just enough for me to say "Bring it on!!" and then... :)

    I hope everything's OK, Ana.

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  27. I can't wait to get my hands on this one. Heather recommended it, and if nothing else I want to look over the beautiful illustrations.

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  28. Sorry the story doesn't live up to the art (which looks amazing by the way). Neverwhere was a retelling? Where in the world was I at when that happened lol? I tried Neverwhere and got about to that group of people eating the cat and gave up on it at that time always meaning to go back. That said, I really will have to go back now because I've always just adored anything that is remotely related to Wonderland. Retellings are some of my favorite books :)

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  29. I try not to feel guilty when I hit 'mark all as read' either, but I really do. I haven't been to your blog in awhile, but I'm finally caught up with my google reader!

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Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.