Writer: Jane Yolen
Artist: Mike Cavallaro
Publisher: First Second Books
Release Date: January 8, 2012
Jane Yolen may be better known as an author of young adult and children’s literature than comics, but her sequel to Foiled (2010) shows that her narrative abilities translate well to the medium. The set-up is original and involving: Aliera Carstairs, a fairly ordinary high school student apart from her fencing skills, discovers a world of fairy (or, pardon me, faerie) creatures she must defend when she puts on her fencing mask. You don’t need to read the first book to dive into this one, but it’s not hard to come by either and there’s certainly some pleasure in an origin story.
The series so far has many strengths, most notably Yolen’s ability to incorporate themes that might be preachy in other hands, but feel natural and integral to the story. Aliera’s cousin Caroline, for example, is confined to a wheelchair, but her disability never feels shoehorned to make a point. Instead, Caroline’s mind is alive, and her disability makes her no less vulnerable than any of the other characters. Aliera herself is an excellent strong female role model, all the more so because of her flaws, such as impatience. She’s not Buffy yet, but there’s no question she passes the Bechdel Test.
Mike Cavallaro’s sharply-rendered panels, filled with pointy noses and spiky hair, fit well with the adolescent atmosphere of the story, and the flat coloring is nicely done. The book feels slick, but not overly so. Its flaws come mostly in the speed with which it’s told. You may find yourself, especially as a non-adolescent, wishing for more depth, more subtlety (the big twist is no great surprise), and simply more in general, but some of these aspects may take the series more time to develop. As is, Curses! is well-executed and action-focused rather than introspective; a rarity among books aimed at YA girls.