Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde: The Happy Prince
by Oscar Wilde, P. Craig Russell (NBM, 2012)

Oscar Wilde's well-known fairy tale is beautifully rendered into a graphic novel format by legendary comic artist/illustrator P. Craig Russell. The tale is about a beautiful gilded and bejeweled statue high above a city that befriends a little swallow heading south for the winter. It is a story of friendship, compassion and sacrifice that can seem sad on the surface but is ultimately rewarding.

As expected with Russell's name, the artwork is stunning. Russell's vivid style creates a captivating city, complete with articulate architectural details, containing a variety of people. The least-recognized or under-appreciated element is his artwork's consistency on the Happy Prince. The title character is a fixed, unmoving statue having discussions with a living, flying bird, resulting in differing viewpoints of the statue. The Happy Prince is certainly not the animated Galatea-esque type, so the continuity of the figure's pose is crucial to conveying that situation. Looking at each panel (no repeats in this book), Russell persistently portrays the Happy Prince in a stationary situation, easily explaining the necessity of the devoted little swallow's assistance. If this were a computer-rendered book, maintaining consistent poses and proportions would be a simple task of changing the viewing angle. It's no easy task for even the most capable artist; Russell performs it seamlessly.

This book may seem short, but it is loaded with substance in both story and art. Wilde's fairy tale is a truly timeless story with a message that needs to be conveyed to every generation. Russell breathes life into Wilde's work, adding dazzling detail to a truly touching tale.

review by
C. Nathan Coyle

7 July 2012

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