Fairyland By Way Of Hell: Reviewing ‘I Hate Fairyland’ #2
by Scott Redmond
Everything old is new again as ‘I Hate Fairyland’ continues its new life by setting the overall stakes of the series as Gertrude is put back on track to return to the one place she hoped to never see again. Dark whimsical fantasy looks perfectly colorful, animated, energetic, dangerous, fun, and over the top in the return of this great series.
Fairyland is calling again, but Gertrude/Gert would rather do anything than answer that call & revisit her trauma site. Too bad for her the richest man in the world has other plans for Fairyland that require her precise expertise. Good thing she’s just as opportunistic as the next corrupt capitalist.
There is a special trick to making even the worst of characters compelling so that the audience wants to keep checking in to see what they get up to next. We don’t even see Fairyland proper within this issue, though we see something adjacent which we’ll get to in a bit, but it’s engaging because Skottie Young got the audience invested in Gert during that first volume of the series. There is plenty to take in here as Wiggins details how he found out about Fairyland and all the failed attempts to get there, as well as the exact reason that Gert is the person needed for this mission.
This is a space where I commend Young. It would have been easy to string along some sort of reveal about Wiggins’s motivations but that’s not what happens here. Nope, just like tons of other rich dudes, his goal is that he wants to establish a foothold in Fairyland and commercialize it as a Theme Planet rather than the smaller simpler theme park that his grandfather opened in the 50s (getting some real Disney vibes here). He puts on a whole song and dance about rescuing his son, which he does want to do for research reasons, but Gert is the voice of the audience that suspects people like him already and calls him out. Unlike us, though Gert is just as messed up and will go back to the place she hates for the opportunity to own half of this business venture.
Returning to worlds that were explored before is almost like slipping into a warm comfortable blanket if that blanket cursed a lot and did crude awful things and also came with a backdoor that leads right into the Fairyland version of Hell. It’s a great reveal at the end that the Inferno, the aforementioned version of Hell, was created as a way to put any returning folks through trials to decide who can come back to Fairyland rather than a wide-open return policy. It also gives the audience something new to take in rather than jumping right back into parts of Fairyland we already know and instantly turns things upside down for Gert after the cliffhanger that strips quite a few years away from her, again.
Brett Bean and Jean-Francois Beaulieu bring this character and world to vivid cartoonish unique life. Bean’s style has the right over-the-top kinetic energy that is needed to make this series work, able to hit all the fantastical elements and make them mesh perfectly with the elements that are more real or grounded for us. Emotions are worn on the sleeves here and are crystal clear upon the highly emotive and detailed faces, Gert especially looking just as miserably terrible as one would expect in most cases except when she’s gleefully sinister.
Blending outlandish and realistic things together is quite simple for Bean, as is the ability to make even the more grotesque moments feel funny or softer when they are not being played for gross-out. Such as Gert’s crashing into Inferno and just like a lot of animated characters, she’s looking quite rough as she should before in the next panels it’s shaken off since she’s now back in a Fairyland-style place. Also, Virgil, the Inferno goat person looks perfectly sinister but also deceptively adorable as well as pretty damn metal. I love Virgil already.
This series is just such an overload of fantastical bright vivid colors in the best way possible thanks to Beaulieu. Much of that over-the-top energy comes from the color palate choices which in the real world blend the vivid with the more shadowy toned-down sort of realistic colors. It keeps focus on some of the bigger brighter elements and makes them pop even more against more commonplace backgrounds. Most of the panels have a lot softer versions of the colors, with middle-range blues, greens, and yellows coloring the world while the people we see in flashback spaces or in Wiggins’s office are wearing even lighter-colored versions of things.
Much of the time the blast of color comes from Gert’s involvement, vivid red and orange pop up a few times during angry/gleeful anger moments, but her overall appearance at first is very vividly different than others. Once we’re in Inferno though the cooler colors are cast aside for much warmer, naturally, colors as the red and oranges take over and set the hellish tone.
We see all these emotions and moments on the page with the characters, and Nate Piekos ensures we fully hear them. Little changes to the font like bolds and slight italics here or there making moments louder are even more sinister looking to match what is happening with the emotions or tone of the characters at the moment. One element I really like is how emphasized words are not just bold in many cases, they are an entirely different, but still close, font style and size compared to the rest of the dialogue so that they pop out even more.
Just like how all of Gert’s Fairyland style censored swear words are in a different more colorful font style than the rest of her dialogue, making them stand out just like they are meant to. There are various other cases where Piekos makes sure that the lettering is changed up to get something across from great uses of dragged-out text that bursts out of bubbles, text within bubbles that becomes sort of wobbly (when they are being transported to Fairyland), and all the really great colorful hilarious SFX that can be found all over.
Every element here comes together to sell the idea that this title is fantastical with the energy of the animated world that is in the title, bridging the gap between dark and whimsical with a side of gross just waiting around the corner.
I Hate Fairyland #2 is now available from Image Comics.