Fairy tales have always been living, evolving creatures – each version reflecting the culture and sensibilities of the time. Most would have been handed down orally, changing who knows how many times, before being recorded in book format – perhaps most notably in the early 17th century by the Brothers Grimm in their book, Grimms' Fairy Tales, in which they recorded adaptations of German folk tales.
They have certainly been reworked many times since as well. Most famously by Disney of course but there are plenty of other versions about. And the more the merrier I say, there’s nothing better than an interesting new twist on an old classic story.
Namesake joins this tradition in its reworking of a collage of fairy and folk tales, a new interpretation for the age of the web comic.
The characters and comic concept
Our principal character is Emma Crewe, a young woman living a reasonably normal life. Needless to say this doesn’t last and she is suddenly transported into one of the many parallel worlds of fairy stories.
But there is more than just the perils of the land she finds herself in for Emma to worry about. Dark forces seek to use the naturally occurring phenomenon of the fairy tale worlds, and those like Emma (Namesakes) that are able to travel to them, to further their own sinister purposes.
Emma’s character is pretty classic hero fare, plucky and brave, quick on her feet and in thought. She’s the eldest child of a solo parent which works in well with her personality as you get the impression she’s semi-raised her younger sister and had to run the household for her often absent father.
There are a lot of secondary characters, bordering on too many really, but effort is put in to give them all their own personality. Some are nearly main characters in their own right and are the focal character for sections or chapters of the comic.
There is a lot of story going on in Namesake. Multiple worlds, flashbacks, lots of characters with their own histories, subplots and agendas. It’s a bit dizzying and occasionally I got a bit lost with who was doing what and why (though some of that is intentional and will presumably/hopefully be explained at a later date). Largely due to the sheer complexity of what is going on there might also be odd plot hole if you go looking for it but nothing outrageous.
However this depth is also a great strength, if the writers can keep it together, as the interconnecting plot lines impact each other in interesting and surprising ways. There’s clearly an understanding of fairy tales as an academic subject being called upon here and the clever reworking they have received so far has been very enjoyable. I’d actually like to see more of this in the comic as it’s been the strength to date.
Generally the story lines are all very action orientated and definitely in the fantasy-adventure camp as you might expect. Having said that in terms of adaptations of fairy tales you should think a little less Disney and a little more Brothers Grimm in terms of content. These are some dark and bloody streaks mixed in amongst lighter content – I’m a fan but be aware that some content borders on horror at times (as any self-respecting fairy story should).
Due to the sheer amount going on the pacing sometimes feels a little fast, like there is too much happening all at once. Then when it slows by comparison it feels too slow but only because everything has been going at a 100 miles per hour previously.
The art is fairly main stream comic/cartoon in appearance, though the style moves around a bit and changes on some pages - not jarringly though, I didn't really consciously notice it until reviewing. It starts off a little inconsistent and bit rough in places but improves throughout. It’s generally black and white with occasional cleverly placed use of colour.
There are some stand-out pages and the chapter covers in particular can be quite spectacular.
Author, publishing and timeline
The creators of Namesake are Megan Lavey-Heaton and Isabelle Melançon. My understanding is that both write the story and Isabelle does the art.
Megan is a graduate of the University of Alabama, works in journalism and resides in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, USA.
Isabelle is a graduate of the University of Ottawa (Visual Arts) and resides in Montréal, Québec, Canada.
Together they have started up their own site for publishing their own works called Fairylogue Press. On there you can purchase both the Namesake books published to date as well as some stand-alone projects the pair have produced such as Valor, a collection of female led fairy tales (both new and traditional) in a mixture of comic and prose form with original art.