Saturday, October 23, 2021

Cartoon Saturday- The Dire Days of Willowweep Manor

Garrity, Shaenon K. and Baldwin, Christopher. 
The Dire Days of Willowweep Manor
July 20th 2021 by McElderry Books
ARC provided by Young Adult Books Central

Haley is so obsessed with Gothic novels that her language arts teacher has to tell her she can't do a book project on yet another one, bemoaning the fact that Haley can't be like the other girls and like sexy vampires. Disappointed, Haley is traveling home on a dark and stormy night ( in a long skirt, waistcoast, blouse, and Chuck Taylors) and hears someone calling for help from the water. She jumps from a bridge to rescue him, but the next thing she knows, she is waking up in a stereotypically creepy, Gothic mansion, complete with sarcastic, frumpy maid, three disparate brothers, Montague, Laurence, and Cuthbert and a mystery to solve. In addition to a hermitage, catacombs, and resident ghost, there is also a Doomsday like contraption in the basement. In a science fiction twist, the manor is the location of a portal to a gasket universe. Montague even gives Haley the instruction manual (a comic version with a perky spokesgirl reminiscent of 1950s commercials), but it is little use against the evil, possessed friar and hordes of Bile ridden bunnies. Will Haley's modern skills combine with her love of the Gothic world be able to combine and save the day?

Perhaps there are a lot of high school students well versed in the world of Daphne du Maurier and Jane Austen who will understand the dextrous use of Gothic tropes in this graphic novel, because this is certainly a tour de force of turning those tropes on their ears. I was particularly fond of the embittered servant woman who wanders the moors (where it rains once a day and twice on Sunday) to wail for her lost love, and Cuthbert, who throws himself into everything with a dimwitted fervor that highlights his Snidely Whiplash appearance. 

The illustrations are attractive, and Baldwin's background with Bruno and Spacetrawler both help to give a realistic feel to both the introspective, Gothic world and the science fiction one. The pallette is largely gray and brown, reflecting the Gothic gloom, but there are also some nice, sunny days outside of the manor. 

This is a quirky, Young Adult graphic novel that will find fans among the readers of other odd harmonic convergences such as Lumberjanes, although the people who might like it best might be middle aged high school language arts teachers and librarians who were thwarted in their quests to write a PhD thesis on the application of Austen's archetypes to moden psychology, but they will certainly promote this novel to their students! Perhaps for the next book Haley will get sucked into the world of her next assignment for class, "Hemingway whether you like it or not"!

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