Comical Musings

Review: Hereville

by on Jun.08, 2009, under Review

By singular demand, I present to you Hereville by Barry Deutsch. Hereville proudly follows the tradition first seen in such books as Wuthering Heights, and later carried on in the writings of Flannery O’Connor and the like, by presenting us with characters who are very obviously from one place and speak their local dialect unashamedly. Unlike the aforementioned writers, though, Deutsch is polite enough to provide translations for the abundant Yiddish in his comics. And believe me, in a comic about Orthodox Jews in modern times, the Yiddish flows like a person’s tears after eating the horseradish at a seder. (Yes, let’s all watch Luprand pretend like he knows anything about Jewish culture.)

The art is generally quite appealing. For the most part, it’s a pleasant cartoony form that handily avoids the “I wish I could draw like my favorite manga-ka or anime-kun” style that I still have yet to escape. Occasionally he throws in a panel of startling realism or two.

About the only thing that bothers me is the Muppet mouth syndrome that seems to strike his characters. It’s not exactly For Better or For Worse-level, but in the second row of this page, I thought the top of Mirka’s head was slowly severing itself from her body and would start flying around and firing laser beams. That would have been so cool.

The plot looks like it will be an interesting one; it’s the first I’ve heard of a Jewish dragon-slayer, much less one who looks to be about twelve or so (unless I’m mistaken, which I often am). The upshot of this is a unique viewpoint for the main character and a really novel setting and personality for people. The downside of this is that right as the Marilyn Manson impersonator reveals how Mirka can get started on the path toward dragonslayerhood, the plot gets interrupted for The Great Muppet Shabbos.

(A side note: challah is delicious bread, and I wish I lived closer to a Great Harvest store so I could buy it more often, but after seeing this page, I will spend the rest of my life checking my loaves of bread for ethereal possession or possible interment of small young girls.)

The downside of any comic that cuts the action in order to present a tidbit of information in earnest (as opposed to Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams novels, which play such up for laughs) is that the reader generally feels cheated. It may be interesting, it may be essential, but it’s not necessarily what the reader came for. It’s like when I went to Subway recently and they mixed my order up with another person’s, so I ended up with roast beef and mustard instead of peppered turkey and mayonnaise. Sure, it was still a good sandwich, but it’s the principle of the thing.

Still, Muppet mouths, educational interruptions, and truly horrifying visages aside, Hereville shows a good deal of promise. I’m particularly fond of this page, which depicts Mirka’s roiling thoughts as she sets out to slay a troll. In a lovely twist of events, she winds up arguing it half to death. I look forward to future installments.

Comic Rating: Who knows, who knows four? I know four …

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