Monday, June 12, 2006

Abadazad: The Dream Thief

Book two of the irresistible Abadazad series from J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Ploog finally delves into material not seen in comic form when the initial three issues were launched by Crossgen years ago. Released simultaneously with book one (The Road To Inconceivable), The Dream Thief is part comic, part prose children's book. The angry protagonist Kate gets pulled further into the strange world of Abadazad under the care of Little Martha and Queen Ija, with appearances by some new whacky characters that are different to Kate than the Abadazad books published in her world. That's right. Abadazad, if you're unaware, is a successful series of children's books published in Kate's world by Arthur N. Pierson, who takes some creative liberties when adapting the stories related to him by Little Martha after she leaves Abadazad to grow up in the real world. One major change is that he makes Little Martha (the star of those stories) a white girl when she's really black. He didn't feel the world was ready for a black protagonist at that point in time (when children's stories featured Alice from Wonderland and Dorothy from Oz, each with similarities to the situations found in Abadazad). Beyond that, pretty much every character Kate encounters has been altered, making things a little disorienting for her. But with this volume, Kate learns a valuable lesson about the changes Pierson made to the world. But that's amid a rollercoater ride of crazy whales and invisible women and the villain of the tale himself, The Lanky Man. Kate's visit to Abadazad began with her desire to seek out her lost brother who she was told by a grown-up Little Martha, was in Abadazad, held prisoner by The Lanky Man in a chamber to steal his innocent dreams. It's a thing. But the new Abadazad stories remain true to the imaginative loveable stories initially launched by Crossgen, with high quality storytelling, great characters, and wonderful art (featuring some of the best Kirby energy crackle I've ever seen, courtesy of a magic umbrella). There are some themes that run through Abadazad that I think are rather bold to include in a book intended for young children, race issues being one, but I feel kids need to be exposed to things that force them to think and reevaluate cliches with works that subvert them. Abadazad is, when all's said and done, a story about a girl from a family torn apart, who's hurt and embittered in wake of it, and finds a place where she's important and wanted, something she really needs to be able to put things at home in perspective and to grow beyond her fear and pain. It may sound a little sophisticated for its intended audience, but kids are smart and can handle it in the end. Anyways, Book three of the Abadazad series (The Puppet, the Professor, and the Prophet) isn't scheduled for release until 2007, so we must make due with these few offerings of DeMatteis and Ploog's Abadazad universe until then.

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