by Michael Stock and Sina Grace
Michael Stock’s premise, the title and the art by Sina Grace all present in a way that makes Penny Dora look to be a cute story with a connection to the fabled “Pandora’s Box.” Stock, in the back of issue one, explains that the basis for the story actually came from the mind of an eight year old, which is included in issue two. But what was hinted at in issue one becomes all the more apparent here in issue two. Penny Dora and the Wishing Box is about desire, access to power and what that does to people. What may seem like a fun and simplistic children’s tale has some really interesting thematic elements that elevate the simple concept into a rather intriguing series.
At the end of the first issue, Stock and Grace showed readers a fun tease of the family cat succumbing to the wishes of the box and it is once again hinted at in this issue. But what begins here is a mistake that leads to an experiment and before the characters know it, they are at each other, straining a very long-standing friendship. Elizabeth has slept over at Penny’s house and she hears the box asking her a question. Mistaking it for Penny’s voice, she answers. It is innocent and unplanned, but the chain of events that will follow make the incidental first step almost tragic. Part of that tone is born out of the art style that Sina Grace employs. The girls, the house, and even the cat present a sense of childlike simplicity in their construction and through the coloring. Grace manages to keep the book in this zone, never tipping the hat of the story to anything sinister.
What Grace’s art style allows for, then, is for the story to develop naturally. Stock’s script puts readers in the position to consider the same dilemma that the readers face. What would a person wish for? How big would they go? As Elizabeth quickly recognizes, the wish should be small or secretive enough to avoid detection. The last thing they would want to do is ask for something that would cause people to take notice. Therefore it is a simple enough stepladder to follow. But the temptation, and the instant gratification of a successful wish soon pits the friends against each other. Penny still does not trust it. Combined with the box’s incessant request for wishes, Stock has the box shift voices when it is unsuccessful. It follows suit with what has come so far in being a very small implication, almost completely innocuous.
There has yet to be real piece of evidence that clarifies that something sinister is at play. Though the appearance and power of the box are unknowns, there has yet to be any real reason to expect something sinister. Stock’s story and Grace’s depiction of the box and characters never give away any tells about what may be coming. Even still, there is a real foreboding sensation. The end of the second issue leaves the story in an excellent place. Penny and Elizabeth have turned against one another over the box. Stock is playing with humanity, human nature and how desire can influence and magnify underlying personality characteristics. It is definitely unexpected, and Penny Dora #2 sends readers down an exciting path with a ton of promise for what lies ahead.