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Once Upon a Time Machine
Edited by Andrew Carl and Chris Stevens
Cover Artist: Farel Dalrymple
Review by Drew Bittner
Dark Horse Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781616550400
Date: 23 October 2012 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Fairy tales are one of the most enduring forms of entertainment for young and old alike. Editors Andrew Carl and Chris Stevens have invited a host of storytellers to reinterpret these classic tales through a variety of lenses--science fiction, manga, horror, and more--to create an astounding new collection.

Once Upon a Time Machine, released by Dark Horse Comics, stakes out its ground quickly. The first entry, "One Thousand and One Nights; or 1001" by Tara Alexander and Nelson Evergreen, depicts a young woman starting a job at a comics company--only to learn it will be folding soon. How to save her career, as well as a dying art form? It'll take some real ingenuity and a knack for telling stories.

Andrew Carl and William Allan C. Reyes then deliver a fresh take on the ballad of John Henry. In this telling, the steel-driving man takes on a robot at the edge of a black hole, with unforeseeable consequences for humanity and robots alike. (This was, incidentally, one of my favorite entries.)

Goldilocks is retold in a style reminiscent of Bill Watterson's "Calvin and Hobbes" in "Silver-Hair and the Three Xairs". A little girl's headstrong wandering through an alien forest leads her to a dwelling where an alien (but entirely relatable) family is coming home...and complaining about humans intruding on their world. The collision of cultures and species is a bit volatile, to say the least, and Silver-Hair may or may not be making things better for both.

In "The Tea Garden Soapbox Grand Prix", by David Tanh and Marcus Muller, a "tortoise" and a "hare" compete in a race--a manga-style retelling set in China and full of twists and turns. As much road-race thriller as fairy tale adventure, both art and story are delightful.

There are many, many more stories--the book clocks in at more than 400 pages--including the Three Musketeers reinterpreted as Nigerian heroes taking down the robotic "Cardinal's men", and a lovely double page spread retelling the story of the Gingerbread Man (but I won't spoil it here). There are literally too many stories to do all of them justice, but I will say that I especially liked the retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, and the story "The Last Leaf" was quite poignant.

Carl and Stevens have done a masterful job, enlisting marvelous creators and unleashing them on nearly every fairy tale an American parent (like me) might imagine. It's a volume that adults and children will greatly enjoy, with clever, insightful, and witty tales abounding on every page.

If you are looking for amazing new visions and interpretations of classic tales, this is the book for you. No more need be said, except...

Highly recommended.

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