Release Date: Available Now
Credits: Words and Art by Micheline Hess
Price: $1.94 Digital Download over at PeepGame Comix
Malice in Ovenland is a new all-ages title from the folks over at Rosarium, who’ve given us such comic classics as DayBlack, Jennifer’s Journal, and Kid Code: Channel Zero. In addition to these, Rosarium’s very important Artists Against Police Brutality anthology is forthcoming, and I know that’s going to bring some heat to the streets.
Malice in Ovenland is a “fish out of water” comic featuring Lilly Brown, the spunky, bright protagonist whose Pippi Longstocking/Alice in Wonderland/Cinderella design is so adorable that I had to make a dentist’s appointment after I finished reading the issues.
…it is summer and while all of her friends are away at camp or doing some sort of other summer vacation, Lilly is stuck at home taking care of her mother’s organic garden. To add insult to injury, Lilly’s mother had to go away this weekend, leaving Lilly all alone with a list of chores. Including, most importantly, scrubbing the oven.
And thus we get our introduction to Ovenland.
Lilly is stuck in Summertime hell. She’s raised by a single mother, who had to make some extreme dietary changes for the sake of her health. Unfortunately, these changes keep Lilly from joining her friends in Summer Camps or on adventures in other cities. However, unbeknownst to Lilly, a day of chores will see her sent on an adventure that may prove to be far more exciting that anything her friends are doing.
A freak accident during some routine oven cleaning sets off Lilly’s adventure with charm and a creative twist on fairy tale mainstay Alice in Wonderland, as well as some deftly placed pop culture references.
Malice in Ovenland is definitely a comic for kids. The art is adorably cartoony, the visual humor is often of the gross-out variety, and the villains bumble as often as they menace. Lilly even has a cute, scaly sidekick. Still, there are a few pop culture references that will endear this book to adults, should they choose to read it. Lilly herself is such a great character, strong-willed and adept at using her wits to figure her way out of sticky situations. One such scene, involving a “pull-my-finger” gag and a bag of bones, illustrates very succinctly how Hess skillfully weaves together humor, Lilly’s character, and the world that she’s built to make a story that is universally appealing.
Even though it’s universally appealing, though, make no mistake, I would definitely recommend this as a comic that I find extra charming because of its diversity. Lilly is a heroine of color with hair like my little sister’s and skin the same color as mine. Any comic fan of color knows that representation matters, and Lilly is representative of a whole group of characters and people who are often ignored outright by the mainstream comics industry. Even Hess admits having difficulty with finding comic book characters who looked like her and her brother, and says that her desire to create an adventure story of this sort rose from that experience.
Aside from my love for the diversity of this comic, Malice in Ovenland is a great book. The art is superbly detailed without losing its cartoony, whimsical feel. The colors are vibrant, and I really recommend reading this on a tablet in high resolution in order to get the full visual impact. The story so far has some actual stakes despite its cuteness, and Hess does a good job of not slapping the reader over the head repeatedly with the messages that exist in the book.
If you like what you’ve seen here, pick up a copy of Malice in Ovenland. I’d recommend this book to any readers who have children, are children at heart, or just really like adventure stories.