by Michael Stock, Sina Grace and Tamra Bonvillain
Each and every time this book comes out it raises the bar. Michael Stock ran with a simple premise that actually has a fun story of its own. Now, the story has begun to pick up momentum and the slippery slope of the wishing well is starting to come into play. Last issue, Stock played up the human relationship element, placing an object of desire and temptation between two friends. Readers witnessed a story that, with all the extremes it could go to, chose to examine people through two young girls. Here, possibly out of guilt, one makes a gesture that accelerates everything.
Penny is a good kid who is naturally afraid of a box that wakes her in the night and somehow knows her name. It also seems to have come from nowhere and actually grants wishes. Stock has written Penny rather neutrally, and her likable and cautious persona makes her a strong protagonist for the story. Her dilemma here feels real and understandable. She is balancing her fear with her friendship. It is an excellent bit of drama that works regardless of the main character’s age. In an attempt to win back her friend, still not believing she is wrong, Penny brings the box to Elizabeth. Power unimpeded can be a dangerous thing. Children, when asked to draw their dream house or describe their dream life are likely to detail extravagant and lavish ideas that are pretty detached from reality. Though Elizabeth has shown no signs of malicious intent thus far, her limitless ability can get out of hand. What is most interesting here is that as the box is left in the Elizabeth’s possession, the story still follows Penny back home. Like a filmmaker framing a show to leave something just off-screen, Stock and Sina Grace leave the readers wondering what will happen as soon as Elizabeth is alone with the box.
As Penny heads back home, Sina Grace and Tamra Bonvillain take control. While Grace and Bonvillain put together beautiful and cheery art that feels apt for a story about young girls, the turn that this narrative takes is all the more elevated by the shift in the art. Alone in her bed and attempting to forget the box and settle into sleep, Penny drifts into a vivid and somewhat mind-bending dream. Grace turns the reader sideways as the panels tilt and swirl. Even stock’s writing seems to adjust. Suddenly the book feels like a children’s storybook. There is a magical sensation to the tale and its art. Readers watch as Penny’s bed comes to life and gallops down the street. It is a magnificent sequence and a rather unexpected presentation of the events. The shift is fitting and all the more engaging. Even so, despite the dream sequence and the possibilities of a magical box, Stock and Grace still manage to keep a solid foundation to the world. Never does the story lose its focus and slip into something too surreal or abstract. Even in the final act as Penny wakes and finds just how Elizabeth has used the box, the result is reasonable and even somewhat expected.
Penny Dora and the Wishing Box has been an absolute treat to follow. For a story based around a magical box that can make all things possible, Stock has managed to keep a very firm foot on the ground. He has made his characters relatable and the dilemmas real. It is only in the final moments of this third issue that the story really begins to show just how quickly the box can change everything. Added to that the tease of a mystery woman, and the story proves its control and pace. With lovely art and great characters, Penny Dora is certainly a series to be following.