Friday, July 16, 2004

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Y'know, it's not often that you see works of sequential fiction that are as unabashedly romantic as Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba's Ursula. Cynicism and negativity is the established norm these days, a learned and practiced response to the reactions of the Great Unwashed who look down upon and ridicule those who yearn to exercise their imagination. Most modern writers, especially those who choose to write popular fiction these days, wear their cynicism like armor to defend themselves against the slings and arrows of those would decry any sort of genuine display of honest, unfiltered emotion. They feel like they need to be all "hip" and edgy, and give us results that are often labored and contrived, and sans any sort of semblance of genuine emotion or depth of feeling. Luckily for us, Moon and Ba are apparently not concerned with this in the slightest, and with their Ursula graphic novel they have given us one of the most open-hearted and refreshingly unpretentious love stories I can remember reading in quite a while.

Ursula is a story about a young prince named Miro, and the girl he befriends and falls in love with when they were children. When she turns 11, she has to go away to a "special school", and they are separated. The prince never forgets her, though, and when he becomes an adult and is expected to assume his father's throne and choose a wife, he sets out to find her again and make her his. Complicating things is the fact that Ursula is actually a fairy princess, and to cause a fairy princess to fall in love is, shall we say, somewhat risky. Miro and Ursula (accompanied by Miro's right-hand man Boris, who provides some needed levity) go through an metaphysical odyssey of sorts, and I'll leave it up to you to find out if they live happily ever after.

Art-wise, this is impeccably drawn. Moon and Ba (I'm still not sure who does what, pencil/ink/script-wise) nimbly skip between whimsical fantasy and stylized reality apparently without effort. I'm reminded somewhat of Baz Luhrman's re-imagining of Romeo & Juliet in its mix of the contemporary, grandiose and idealized. The iconic graphics of the star and tree, or the cartoonishness of the scenes with the pair as children, along with their bird, Pip, couldn't be more different, style-wise, from the scenes with Miro as an adult and his father...but they all fit together seamlessly.

Boy, it sure sounds like I was impressed, doesn't it? Honestly, I'm trying to be objective and critic-y about this book, but I just can't do it, I'm afraid. Some might gripe about its barefaced romantic sentiment, and may even perceive it as cloying and inconsistent in tone...but I'm just not seeing it. I'm sure the X-Men contingent will avoid it like it was poison. But Ursula wears its ink-stained heart proudly and firmly in place upon its sleeve for all to see, and if you've ever been in love, think you've been in love, or wonder what all that love junk is about anyway, then you should get this. And buy a copy for that special someone while you're at it.

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