Review: Andi Watson’s ‘Glister’
Image, 2007, $5.99 each
Andi Watson has had a career more typical of a prose writer than a comics creator: he’s worked on a number of projects, pretty much all of them his own original ideas, nearly all of them with defined endings, for different publishers, and kept the copyright. Some of those projects span more than one volume, but, still, his stuff ends up on a shelf as if they were novels, and he’s hasn’t shown any sign of really wanting to be the next great Avengers writer or to re-vamp the Haunted Tank or do anything else horribly fanboyish and all-too-typical for his generation. And yet his work isn’t particularly literary or self-indulgent, either: Watson may have a bit of autobiography hidden around the fringes of his stories, but he’s mostly not talking about himself.
Watson’s recent books have generally been aimed at adults without being restricted to them; a book like Little Star is about parenthood in a way that teenagers probably won’t be interested in, but there’s nothing about it that would keep them out. His earliest works, though – Samurai Jam and Skeleton Key – were much more obviously all-ages books, and he’s returned to a younger audience with Glister.
Actually, if anything, Glister excludes adults: it’s a series about the continuing adventures of a preteen girl (Glister Butterworth), and its central audience is presumably girls of Glister’s age. Each of the three volumes so far are independent stories of about 64 pages each — the first is a bit shorter, but it also has a Skeleton Key back-up to fill out the pages.
Glister is yet another one of comics’ traditional weirdness magnets; she lives in an indefinably large house, with an odd, indulgent father, and has interesting (and terribly English) adventures.
In the first book, the ghost of a minor Victorian novelist – Philip Bulwark-Stratton, who bears a suspicious resemblance to a real-world Victorian writer with a penchant for dark and stormy nights – comes to Chillblain Hall in a haunted teapot, and proceeds to dictate his last, unfinished novel to the initially willing Glister. But she has no desire to spend her life as his amanuensis, so she finds a way to get him to finish his work.
The second volume sees a “best village in Britain” competition descend on the local hamlet, Gravehunger Moss, along with an attendant martinet named Leonard Swarkstone, who thinks Chillblain Hall is an ugly eyesore. The hall mopes for a bit, and then…leaves. Glister and her father try to make do without it, but, eventually, they have to track it down and convince it to come back home.
And, in the third book, Glister has to confront the truth about her missing mother, and to brave the dangers of Faerieland. (This one is a bit more serious, and possibly frightening to younger kids, than the first two volumes.)
Watson’s art has an appealing looseness in Glister, and the pages have a slight roughness and a not-quite-white color that adds texture to the books. Glister herself is a fine heroine – spunky but not ridiculously so, smart but not too smart for her age, and nice without being a pushover. If I had daughters, she’d be just the kind of role model I’d want them to have. Since I don’t, I’ll just have to keep Glister for myself.
Andrew Wheeler has been a publishing professional for nearly twenty years, with a long stint as a Senior Editor at the Science Fiction Book Club and a current position at John Wiley & Sons. He’s been reading comics for longer than he cares to mention, and maintains a personal, mostly book-oriented blog at antickmusings.blogspot.com.
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