Friday, December 9, 2011

GN Review -- Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer / Van Jensen and Dusty Higgins

There's little point in arguing that the premise to Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer is a lot of fun. I mean, come on, a puppet whose entire body is made out of wood going and killing vampires? A "wee little puppet man" kicking the collective ashes of the bloodsuckers he stakes? With all of the monster / classic literature mash-up books that have come out, this one seemed the most light-hearted, amusing, and flat-out fun.

It certainly starts off that way. From scribe Van Jensen's apology to the original creator of Pinocchio to the very cleverly narrated beginning hunt scene, he wastes no time in playing this continuation for laughs of the dark variety. Drawing us into the premise that this pint-sized protagonist can endlessly attack the vampires by lying and then breaking off his nose, he then lays out the story thus far about his father Gepetto's death at the hands of the bloodsucking undead, and Pinocchio's subsequent quest for vengeance.

A multitude of allies and adversaries populate the story, from a ghostly cricket and a weaponsmith carpenter to a duplicitous fox and cat and ignorant townsfolk who are too freaked out by Pinocchio to believe him. Pinocchio tracks down and confronts his father's killers, setting the stage for a final showdown with the vampires that contains the requisite twist near the end. Things end on a dark, somewhat tragic note, with just a little bit of humor thrown in as well as the promise of more to come.

It's a promising setup, and things do start out well, but after a while the jokes seem to fall flat from either overuse or bad timing. The dialog is amusing in places, but after a while it seems there are more wasted punchlines than funny one-liners. And the story itself, while far from the strongest plot premise in the world, starts off engaging and humorous, but after a while seems to fall in on the weight of its own gravitas. It seems Pinnochio, Vampire Slayer doesn't quite know how seriously to take itself, and we're left with an awkward mix of jokes and darkness and vampires and magic and townfolk personalities that isn't patently bad, but seems underwhelming given the story's auspicious beginning.

The artwork, while not bad in and of itself, isn't all that remarkable either. Dusty Higgins's cartoon style is appropriate for the story, given the popular if misguided perception of Pinocchio originating as a Disney cartoon, and it goes to the appropriately dark places the narrative demands when it needs to, but it does seem as rushed and unfinished in places as the writing. Overall, I was underwhelmed by its simplicity and lack of detail--some visuals of the cricket come to mind--and wished there had been a little more to it.

Which isn't to say that Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer is a bad story. It's not. It simply doesn't pack quite the punch it seems to promise. Given the way it starts off, I was ready to be dazzled, and... well, wasn't. It's a good enough story, that reads fairly smoothly and with a serviceable enough plot and cast. But I just can't help the feeling that it could have been a lot better, a lot more fun. Moderately recommended, particularly for vampire enthusiasts, Buffy fans, and people who like seeing literary classics mashed with monsters.

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