COMIC REVIEW: Penny Dora and The Wishing Box #1

Five years ago, Nico Ludwig-Stock wrote a half-page story, entitled ‘The Magic Box’, that was published in her school newspaper. Her father, Michael Stock, saw something in that story, something he could build on, and thus Penny Dora was born.

Penny Dora and The Wishing Box tells a fairly simple tale, centring around Penny and her mother, who live in a ‘planned community’ in California. On Christmas Eve, a mysterious gift is left on their doorstep with no label to indicate who it’s for or where it came from. After opening it on Christmas Day and discovering it to be an empty old wooden box, Penny’s mother dismisses it as some sort of gag gift from her father, and instructs her to bin it. Instead, Penny Dora chooses to keep it, hiding it under her bed, and we soon discover the box is not what it seems…

It’s difficult to really review this book at the moment; it is very definitely a ‘setting-the-stage’ issue, and I think another issue or two will really tell us what the book wants to be. I’m not sure what the tone of the book will be from this first instalment, as the idea behind the box itself could take it down many a path. This initial issue is quite light in tone, with the wishes that are granted being rather harmless and cute (more ham for the cat, please!), however the box definitely has the potential to take us down a slightly darker path, especially given the hints of unhappiness within the family I’m very interested to see which route Stock decides to take with this.

As a set up issue, however, Penny Dora and The Wishing Box does a very good job of creating interesting, likeable and realistic characters; by the end of the book I was fully invested in Penny, her mother, and their adorable cat Iggy. This is down in part to the wonderful writing style of Michael Stock (who is able to capture the easy back-and-forth of a mother and child with intelligence and humour) but also to Sina Grace’s beautiful artwork, complimented by Tamra Bonvillian’s luscious colours.

I’ve been a huge fan of Grace’s work since discovering him through The L’il Depressed Boy (always worth checking out if you’ve not read it before) and the one thing that really stands out is his versatility. You couldn’t really get 3 more different titles than L’il Depressed Boy, Burn The Orphanage and Penny Dora, and whilst all 3 retain Grace’s style and overall look, somehow it fits perfectly with all of them. There’s a storybook style of narration running throughout this issue that Grace’s art enhances wonderfully, and is further heightened by Bonvillian’s colouring. This book is very colourful and stunning to look at; a favourite panel of mine is one in which Penny Dora, her mother and Iggy envision the things they wish for. The noticeable change in style by Grace is a brilliant choice, reflecting the innocence of Penny’s wish compared to the practical (read: greedy?) wish of her mother.

On the whole, I would definitely recommend this book, particularly for the comic reading parent wishing to introduce their children to comics. It’s very family friendly, yet not patronising, condescending or solely aimed at children; there’s something in here for everyone to enjoy. And it’s just so darn lovely to look at. Whilst I don’t quite know where it’s going, I like how it’s getting there so far, and am intrigued to see where the box takes us.

Rating: 4.5/5

Blogger: Stacey Taylor (@StacebobT)

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