Whit’s Thursday Review: Alabaster’s ‘Mimi and the Wolves Act I: The Dream’
I chose to review Alabaster’s Mimi and The Wolves Act I: The Dream because I followed her creation process on Tumblr and was impressed by the craftsmanship of the book. Just like for her previous works The Complete Talamaroo and Eye of Horus, she does multicolor silk-screened covers with great skill, rendering the comics into physical works of art themselves. I had never read her work before though, so I was curious to see what type of storyteller she was. Mimi and the Wolves, is, well, mind-bending. It took me places I did not expect. After I read it, it made me wonder if I was going off in too many directions, but when I think about it, that’s one of the strengths of the piece.
In the first few pages, Mimi, the protagonist, is in some sort of indecipherable otherworldly experience. Cut to her everyday life. The story, which is paced by the seasons, starts off in late spring. Mimi lives in a quaint country cabin, doing well…quaint country things like making beautiful flower garlands, farming, spending time with townsfolk, and hanging out with Bobo, her dog partner. Looking back, the fact that we don’t know that Bobo is her partner until 18 pages in (although it is suggested) is an example of Alabaster’s methodical unfolding of the story. The first part could almost pass for a children’s book given the literal nature of the dialogue and the innocent and simple storytelling, so there’s no way to predict really what’s to come.
Mimi and Bobo take a trip to help out at Ceres at the farm.
It’s not until she falls asleep and has a fantastically unsettling dream, that the first few pages start to have some context. Upon waking, Mimi reveals that she’s had this dream for her entire life, but that no one knows about it, including Bobo. It’s this secret that starts to put a growing wedge between the couple (more on this later). Mimi goes to Wormood, the apothecary, to concoct a potion that will allow her to dream lucidly. She goes home, takes the potion, and descends into her dream where she finally begins to have her questions answered.
As spring transitions into summer, Mimi begins making leaf decorations with a peculiar symbol on it which concerns Bobo. Storming off into the forest, Mimi encounters Ergot, a wolf who has found her leaves and is elated by his discovery of her. Whisking her away to his den, he explains that they can help each other as he has the same visions of the Holy Venus, a statuesque woman with flowing hair. Taking strands of their own hair, he constructs a magic shell through which they can communicate when apart. Mimi starts to disconnect from her daily life upon her return and butts heads with Bobo, who warns her that what she’s been drawing is a cult symbol used by wolves.
One night, upon Ergot’s beckoning, Mimi meets him and his lady wolf friend, Ivy in a cave, where they coerce her into entering a crystal cavern which Venus has supposedly led them too. And from there, well, she encounters some PRETTY crazy stuff, which I won’t further spoil for the reader. Upon her return the next day, Mimi explains to a worried Bobo that she has been spending time with wolves who can help her process her dream. When he discovers her magical shell and destroys it, things end on a sour note. Yes, they break up, but as they say, when one door closes, another one opens.
Mimi and the Wolves is classic mythology with a modern twist. The literal nature of the dialogue and story pacing reminded me of the 80s and 90s cartoons I grew up with such as Disney movies, Strawberry Shortcake, Thundercats, Jem and the Holograms, Captain Planet, and Hanna Barbera episodes to name a few. But there is more to that connection. They are all essentially mythology too.
Drawing on classical mythology
In terms of ancient mythology, I thought of both Greek/Roman and Egyptian mythology (particularly the Egyptian Book of the Dead/use of Roman deity names like Ceres and Venus). Myths from these cultures are all about quests with trials and tribulations, gatekeepers of knowledge, and acquisition of powers and skills. It’s about the ‘monomyth’ or ‘Hero’s Journey’ as the late Joseph Campbell explains in his vast body of work. Joseph Campbell, one of the preeminent scholars on world mythology, summarized it nicely in his classic book The Hero with a Thousand Faces:
A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man (The Hero With A Thousand Faces, Princeton University Press, 1942, p.23)
Indeed, the Hero’s Journey is not unique to protagonists of fantastical tales. Everyone embarks on one in various forms. In fact, it is the story of one’s life.
A diagram of Campbell’s take on the Hero’s Journey
The other theme involves the life cycle of romantic relationships, particularly commitment, disconnection, and dissolution. For anyone who’s ever gone through the break up of a significant relationship, this hits close to home. Mimi and Bobo seem to have the perfect domesticated life to the observer initially, but Mimi’s secret haunts her to the point that the relationship begins to unravel. We see the course of their relationship move from intimacy, to drifting apart, to an angry split. Mimi is changing while Bobo is static and wants the relationship to stay as it is, which in keeping with the family systems theory means that it must evolve if it is to be sustainable. This does not happen. And as we watch it dissolve it’s the things that are NOT said that are perhaps the most important.
Now to the art:
The wonderful thing about comics is the diversity of artistic styles out there and how they (hopefully) harmonize with the storytelling. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve always let the artwork slide for me a bit if I’m really impressed with the storytelling, as it is not as much my focus. I didn’t find that to be the case with this piece. In fact, Alabaster’s artwork is one the closest matches to my aesthetic that I’ve found in recent years. The lines are painstakingly clean, the characters well-designed and distinctive, and the backgrounds thoroughly developed (I think she has a knack for drawing landscapes). Mimi and her animal friends are cute, not unlike children’s storybook characters, but she also draws on styles ranging from Egyptian and medieval art to Art Nouveau. It’s this integration that makes for a unique style.
Perhaps the visual element that impressed me the most was Alabaster’s sense of composition. Mimi and the Wolves definitely has a manga feel to it and I initially thought of Osamu Tezuka’s work, especially his later pieces such as Apollo’s Song, Ode to Kirohito, and MW (to be honest I have limited manga knowledge, but these are some of my favorites). The dialogue is simpler and less developed than Tezuka’s, but it’s the growing complexity of the story paired with these artistic elements that make for a rich piece of work.
From Tezuka’s Apollo’s Song
I look forward to seeing how Mimi evolves on her Hero’s Journey as the story unfolds in subsequent acts.
- haectemporasunt likes this
- andywarnercomics likes this
- fatswimmies likes this
- solomonfletcher likes this
- tundrawizard likes this
- caffelights likes this
- brohloff likes this
- danemartin likes this
- morgancriger likes this
- altcomix reblogged this from ala-bas-ter
- mistomaxo likes this
- yoursecretary likes this
- billmurrray likes this
- closet-so-and-so reblogged this from ala-bas-ter
- hughbot likes this
- eriknebel likes this
- slowdecade likes this
- girlmountain likes this
- ala-bas-ter reblogged this from whimsicalnobodycomics and added:
- whimsicalnobodycomics posted this