Korgi Vol. 1

By Christian Slade
80 pages, black and white
Published by Top Shelf Productions

So often, books that are marketed as all-ages are really meant just for children. It’s a fine line between the two, finding something that will appeal to adults while still being appropriate and interesting for younger readers as well. Christian Slade’s Korgi is the sort of book that falls squarely into all-ages but considering his past as a Disney animator that probably shouldn’t be surprising. In many ways, Korgi is a prime example of how to handle an all-ages book. With just the right level of surprise and adventure, it’s determined to hook older readers just as quickly as children.

Ivy and her dog Sprout live a happy life in Korgi Hollow. From working on the harvests to just running around and having a good time, it’s a pleasant way to spend your time. When Ivy has to chase after Sprout, though, they’ll find themselves facing gigantic spiders and trolls. Fortunately for Ivy and Sprout, both of them have a couple of tricks up their sleeves just for situations like this.

When Korgi was first announced, I’ll admit that I had more than a healthy dose of skepticism at my end. A book about a little girl and her corgi sounded like it was the sort of thing that could be far too saccharinely sweet for words, the sort of thing that makes people fumble for their insulin. I was delighted to be proven wrong, though. After Slade quickly establishes the world of Korgi Hollow (complete with mammothly huge corgis pulling carts, houses built into trees, and a big grinning dragon that waves hello to the locals) the adventure begins and from that point on it doesn’t ever really let up. It’s nice because while there’s definitely a real sense of danger and menace in Ivy and Sprout’s adventures it never gets so intense that younger readers wouldn’t be able to read it. You can tell that the two will escape and not in fact get eaten by a troll, but at the same time you don’t know exactly how they’re going to do so. The book also doesn’t condescend to its readers; it provides a logical sequence of events, thinking through each encounter carefully. It’s actually refreshing to see things like a monster following the fleeing hero back to their home, for example, or the physics of a neat-looking landscape being respected and acting accordingly. With each latest twist and turn of the story, you’ll find yourself eager to see just what happens next. It’s almost shocking how quickly the book grabs its audience, but by the time I was done I knew I was hooked.

Slade’s art is a real joy to look at, a series of lush and textured lines that all come together on the page. It’s hard to see on the screen just how much detail is put into each illustration, but it’s there. Slade draws in each individual line to create his shading, a perfectionist in getting every last element in just so. Looking at elements like the side of the cliff walls, for instance, is amazing because of the amount of work applied to a background element. Of course, that same care goes into the main characters themselves. Because Korgi is a wordless (or “silent”) book a lot of the storytelling depends on the expressions and physical actions of its characters, and Slade easily succeeds at that. You can always tell what Ivy and Sprout are feeling, be it joy or terror, but without ever feeling exaggerated.

All of Slade’s character designs themselves are particular interesting as well. From the early scene of the corgis of all sizes pulling carts or with baskets on their backs, to the strange furry insect that looks like a dragonfly, you never really know exactly what to expect. The only real constants are that each creation looks unique, and that it’s going to look good. There’s a high level of inventiveness in Korgi that will in many ways be one of the big hooks for older readers; you start hoping for new foes or characters or places to show up simply to see how Slade is going to draw them. It’s hard to talk about some of the things that appear later in the book without giving away the big surprises in store, but suffice it to say that each new twist and turn is sold in no small part because of how well Slade draws them.

Top Shelf’s other ongoing series of all-ages graphic novels, Owly, is the sort of book that really does capture equal attention between older and younger readers. It’s clear to me why Top Shelf is teaming up Korgi with Owly for this year’s “Free Comic Book Day” offering, because the two are a great match. The first volume of Korgi is scheduled to hit stores in April, and trust me when I say that people will be talking about it for months afterwards. Korgi is such a fun and clever book that you’ll actually feel guilty for enjoying it so much. This lush, inventive book is one that I hope we see more installments hitting stores for years to come. Definitely check this out. (If you want to pre-order Korgi from your local comic store, it’s in the Previews for books shipping in April 2007 on page 346. Or tell your local retailer to use order code FEB07 3807.)

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

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