Monday, August 1, 2011
PULPTACULAR | Alison Dare: The Heart of the Maiden
The first volume of Alison Dare presented three stories, each about the size of a single, periodical issue that you’d find on a typical comics stand. Collected together they make for a fun, satisfying chunk of reading, but I was looking forward to sinking my teeth into the longer, novel-length story in the second volume, The Heart of the Maiden. Unfortunately, Heart of the Maiden isn’t as meaty a tale as it first appeared when I looked at the thickness of the volume. A more accurate title for the book would be The Heart of the Maiden and Other Tales.
However, forewarned with that knowledge, Heart of the Maiden is even more entertaining than Little Miss Adventures. The story that gives its name to the volume may not be as long as I expected, but at almost 50 pages it’s a fulfilling read.
Alison and her best friends Dot and Wendy are all roommates at St Joan’s Academy for Girls. Alison often drags her pals into trouble, but it’s a special case when they discover that the nuns who run the school are sneaking around and holding secret meetings in the catacombs below the statue of Joan of Arc in the academy’s courtyard. Alison and her pals learn that the sisters are searching for something called The Heart of the Maiden and that they’re not the only ones looking for it. Naturally, Alison wants to help locate the treasure (whatever it is) and defend her school, but she’s going to have to do it without the nuns’ cooperation. The sisters just want her and her friends to stay in bed.
It’s a fun story with a lot of pulp elements: secret societies, hidden passageways, foreign agents, ancient treasure, and deadly ninjas. As with Little Miss Adventures, it’s written for a young audience and the threat level is pretty low. But though reading it isn’t exactly a nail-biting experience, Alison’s love of excitement is infectious, not only for Wendy and Dot, but for readers as well. Thanks to the joy in J Torres’ script and the excitement that flows from J Bone’s pen, it’s impossible to read Alison Dare and not have a good time.
The “other tales” part of the book precedes the main story. Actually, “other tales” may be a mischaracterization. At first glance, this section appears to be a collection of seven short stories. The shortest is only two pages long, while the longest is twelve, and they rotate through a series of guest-stars (Alison’s dad, the Blue Scarab in one; Alison’s mom’s assistants in another, for example). Just flipping through them, they look unrelated. It’s not until you start reading that you realize that they’re actually very connected, if non-linear. In fact, the unnamed “other tales” section is really a complete story that simply unfolds in a way similar to Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction.
I’m a sucker for non-linear stories when they’re constructed well, and this one is. For that reason I actually enjoyed this part of the book more than “Heart of the Maiden.” Of course, that may also have had something to do with the introduction of a new Blue Scarab villain, King Memphis; an Egyptian-themed Elvis impersonator.