Disney Villains: Maleficent Collection – Written and illustrated by Soo Lee (Dynamite)

Maleficent has an incredibly strong central image to hook her into our memory. And when she stepped out of her Sleeping Beauty role as simple antagonist and got a performance worthy of her potential from Angelina Jolie on screen, the powerful fairy godmother became a figure of complexity and nuance. 

Which leads this collection to be something of a flat fart of a thing. It’s more or less an excuse to deliver Maleficent’s greatest hits – a reasonable persona to begin with, cursing the ungrateful, showing off her massive power, using her power over her familiars to hunt and haunt those who come against her, being cast as “the bad bitch” in a human family saga perpetuated by a thieving pipsqueak, etc.

You’ve seen most of this before, or extrapolated it based on what you have seen.

Add to that the fact that many pages are filled with “action” drawings of dark forests, with the occasional single character running through them and panting, and you end up with a comic book that doesn’t really deliver on the promise of its premise.

This collection was both written and illustrated by Soo Lee – and it feels like there might have been insufficient editorial control along the way, to say “Can we make something new and exciting happen, please?”

The first chapter, amounting to the first 28 pages of this 138-page comic, is a single episode of hapless thievery meeting Maleficent, trying to con her and steal from her, and facing her wrath when the theft is discovered.

The second chapter, taking us up to Page 52, is the riding out of the brother of the original thieving toe-rag, meeting Maleficent, and trying to persuade her that the original thief is not so bad really, and has family responsibilities he has to get back to.

Which is tricky, as he’s been transmogrified by the horn-headed badass – but you get the point? You’ve seen most of this before.

Chapter three is almost entirely word-free, being an adventure for Maleficent’s raven, Diablo. By the time all the swooping and swishing and confrontation with cats is over, you’re 76 pages in and wondering when the fun begins.

Chapter four is also largely silent, taking you up to page 100 with more moody but ultimately unsatisfying panels of Diablo flying through forests. There is a point to chapter four though – it’s the return of the brother, this time with knights, and there’s a little insult-trading with Maleficent at the end, with the brother promising he will find magic-users of his own to send against her unless she sends the original thief home.

So it’s wrong to say it doesn’t get anywhere, but accurate to say it takes far too long, and far too many panels of raven-flight to actually achieve anything.

Chapter five – which takes you to the end, bar a cover gallery – is where Dynamite keeps its badass material here, with a human sorceress riding out to challenge Maleficent. That means you get both a battle of words and a shape-changing magical duel to boot. 

Annoyingly, there’s a logic to the progression of the chapters here – initial insult, attempted recovery, animal digression, double-down, magical battle. So while it would be fun to start with chapter five, kill chapter three entirely, and boil down the other chapters to only deliver the art that’s necessary to tell the story, so there’s room to come back to the scene of chapter five at the end for more resolution, there’s an internal consistency.

It’s just a consistency that feels like it needs the boiling down and excising treatment that a more thorough edit could deliver, to give readers more value for their comic book money.

Is the Maleficent Collection worth what you’ll pay for it? Honestly, we’re bound to say a regretful “Not really.” There’s some good stuff here – but most of it you’ve seen before. There’s also quite a bit of filler, which you couldn’t care less if you’ve seen before. And things really get lively only in chapter five – meaning it whets your appetite only in the last chapter, leaving you with a feeling of anticipation but also feeling if not exactly cheated, then at least like you’ve waded through lots of raven-flying-through-forest panels for not really an adequate reward. Tony Fyler

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