Everybody knows the tale of Snow White and most people know what Neil Gaiman is capable of. In this graphic retelling of the fairy tale he rarely disappoints. Told from the Queen’s point of view in a stream of consciousness way we learn more about the kingdom she ruled and her love for the King than is shown in Disney’s Snow White. Obviously being from the Queen’s viewpoint she tries to vindicate herself this time by painting Snow White as a vampiric creature and Prince Charming who first tries it on with the Queen as a necrophiliac. Unfortunately, one of my favourite short story collections Disenchanted by CL Raven also features twisted fairy tales with these same elements, albeit in a more humorous and punk way.
However, Gaiman’s Snow White is no traditional vampire she has some tendencies like drinking blood, sharp nails and teeth etc. but no mention of her weaknesses, and the blood flowing between her legs when she feeds is one of several mysteries surrounding her. Snow White also seems more malevolent or controlled than many vampires as the culprit for her dad’s long withering death. There’s a lot of erotica in this story which shows the Queen as a bit of a nymph to be honest however it’s interesting there is never a mention of her or the king wanting an heir. The Queen main goals seem to be pleasure and to make her kingdom stronger which is a refreshing interpretation not only of the Queen who is no longer vain but of a medieval queen in general. Not only is this a great story but the queen’s thoughts (which are 95% of the text) show her as mournful, intelligent and are occasionally poetic particularly when describing Snow White. This comic doesn’t have tons of text but the art tells most of the story and the trail of thought never once gets in its way.
Now time to focus on Colleen Doran’s art. There’s vivid colours throughout despite there being several gothic scenes in the book the colours used there are just darker shades which still evoke the medieval style. The character designs remind me of medieval etchings with the clothes, hair styles and facial hair but the eyes are straight out of manga and it’s a strikingly beautiful contrast. No two characters look remotely alike and the differences between Snow White and the Queen are possibly bigger visually than the words suggest. The backgrounds occasionally involves intricate patterns that are reminiscent of sci-fi and fantasy but even when the background is just the sky there’s a lot of depth and different hues to it making this seems otherworldly. Few pages have traditional panel design (like some of Gaiman’s others works) which emphasis the Queen’s flowing thoughts to a dreamlike state and allows Doran to draw some amazing close up images.
Overall, this is fascinating retelling of Snow White’s story which sadly I would have enjoyed more if I hadn’t read similar elements in short stories. The portrayal of the Queen is refreshing and the narrative being told through her flowing thoughts is a device I’d love to see more of. There is nothing I can fault with the art, it’s medieval, colourful, gothic, and dreamlike, a bit of everything. David Jenkins