Those Real World Blues: Reviewing ‘I Hate Fairyland’ #1
by Scott Redmond
‘I Hate Fairyland’ Vol.2 #1 picks up right where the series left off with the same over-the-top kinetic gruesome energy and fun, with a sharper edge dipping into the reality of what extended trauma can do to a person. Perfect jumping on spot for those both familiar and not as familiar with the series as it begins a whole new adventure that sees Gert destined to return to the place she hates the most.
Once upon a time (more like 2015) there was a series called I Hate Fairyland where a young woman named Gertrude/Gert found herself transported to a magical fantasy realm known as (of course) Fairyland. Trapped there for thirty years and driven to madness, where she massacred her way through numerous quests, Gert finally found a way back to the real world turned into her 30-something self with no real-world experience and lots of emotions and mental scars. In 2018 that’s where the series came to an end after 20 issues.
Now in 2020, after creator Skottie Young focused on a few other projects, I Hate Fairyland is back to bring chaotic cartoon-like dark fantasy to comics once more.
Through a fourth-wall-breaking self-deprecating recap page and a multi-page series montage, readers are caught up on everything that came before, give or take. Only to be jerked right into the modern regular world where it’s shown just how crappy Gert’s life currently is. Turns out that spending over 30 years in a fantasy realm and then being thrown back into the real world kind of means one doesn’t have the life experience or emotional stability to fit into society, meaning Gert keeps gaining and losing jobs and can’t seem to find her place in the world.
Young just easily slides back into this world as if he never left it, and knowing the way that stories embed themselves in the mind of the writer there was part of him that probably never did leave. Within these first pages, there is a sense of sympathy that can be felt when we’re shown how hard it is for Gert to fit back into this world. The character still has that dark edge we recall from the previous series, but some of the things she’s going through now are not her fault. Being stripped of formative years kind of means she never had a shot at being able to find a spot within this world, and now she’s pushing back against it as the frustration leaks out.
Outside of the recap pages, we spend very little time in actual Fairyland which is a good call. We get a violent fantasy from Gert but otherwise, the story is very rooted in her trying to find her way and failing, leading to her being beaten outside a bar and then the story hook to get her back to Fairyland is introduced. Turns out another kid, this one the son of a tech billionaire, has potentially found themselves stuck in Fairyland and Gert’s being tasked to get him back. Should be easy, surely nothing will go wrong.
With Young focusing on just the writing this time around, Brett Bean steps into the artistic side of things. All of the art has that same over-the-top kinetic animated energy that was on display in the first volume. While Bean’s style is also unique and his own there are great similarities to what Young was doing in the previous volume that makes the change over almost natural. Many of the visuals to do with the Fairyland stuff at the start look all idyllic and like a fun kids’ cartoon before they change to the darker bloodier montage, and then take on an even darker sort of energy as we’re thrust into the broken real world life of Gert.
Bean nails both the realistic almost sad facial expressions/emotional moments as well as those that are far more outlandish in their quality, sometimes on the same page. All the violence is as gruesome as one might recall from the previous series but still has that more ‘fun’ sort of feeling to it at the same time.
Returning from the previous volume are colorist Jean-Francois Beaulieu and letterer Nate Piekos.
Just like before Beaulieu helps sell the whole package with such a great palate of bright popping sometimes beyond imagination sort of color tones to the pages. All of the elements are made to feel over-the-top but at the same time, there is enough darkness and toned-down colors that help to sell some of the real-world pages as being similar but different from Fairyland. Gert is still in a very colorful world but it comes with the grime and shadows of the real world, that are not of her own making like what she brought upon Fairyland for so many years.
As noted how the Fairyland colors are slightly different than those of the real-world moments, there is a slight almost missed change when Gert goes into her homicidal fantasy moment. There the colors shift and become more vibrant compared to the last page, speaking to the fantasy element that is on display on those pages. It takes some great artwork to make things like gysering blood or brains out of the body seem almost whimsical, and Bean and Beaulieu have that great work.
Same with what Piekos brings to the pages, beyond just making sure all the dialogue and other lettering flows through the pages. I really like the font choice that Piekos goes with here as it feels very close to the standard fonts that most see or use for documents or the like, but with just a slight bit of cartoon or fantastical energy to its appearance. It evokes that ‘real world’ feeling but also speaks to how over the top this book is in its depiction of said ‘real world.’ Especially love the liberal use of bolds, for all the emphasized words and the anger that grows within the first few pages.
Then we get into all the great elements like dragged-out words, colorful borders around bubbles within colorful font within, and all the juicy gross awesome SFX dotting the pages. A cash register sound as a cash register splits a skull open or a ‘Splork’ from a caught brain are just hilarious as they are gross and apt. Right there alongside the small changes made to make sure that Gert’s drunk and then highly injured states later in the issue is even more clear.
Overall a very solid return issue for this series, that does well to return to the world but in a way that creates an even playing field for new and old readers alike.
I Hate Fairyland #1 is now available from Image Comics.