By Joann Sfar
96 pages, color
Published by First Second Books
Five years ago, two of Joann Sfar’s all-ages Little Vampire books were translated into English… and then, nothing. Now, finally, First Second has brought Little Vampire back from the dead, if you’ll pardon the bad pun. Little Vampire Volume 1 collects the first three stories by Sfar, and they’re just as much fun as I’d remembered.
Michael Duffin was startled when he discovered that someone had done his homework for him! That turned out to be thanks to Little Vampire, a vampire his own age who desperately wanted to go to school, too. Now the two of them (along with Little Vampire’s flying red dog Phantomato) are the best of friends, and be it saving animals for experimentation or stopping a bully, whatever they do it’s bound to get them into trouble and fun.
One of the things that I love so much about Little Vampire is the train of logic that runs through the stories. The whole story begins, after all, because Little Vampire wants to go to school like a real boy—so he and the ghosts and other creatures of the night invade an empty school every night and teach him classes so he can get the school experience. It’s a plot that makes perfect sense when you think about it, but when you first encounter it you can’t help but just grin at the imaginative nature of Sfar’s scripts. In the same way that it makes sense to climb into a painting and learn kung fu to stop a bully, or to hide vampires and dogs in your room before heading to school, it’s always easy to see exactly what each character’s thought process is, and it always makes perfect sense in the context of the story.
The stories themselves are a great mix of fun and serious, too. On the surface, there’s always a bunch to laugh at—Michael’s kung fu battles with the dragon and then the bully are silly and inventive, for instance, and even people who aren’t into fecal humor will probably get a laugh at Marguerite and his perpetual wheelbarrow of poop that he pushes around (since you never know when you might need some). There’s always a little edge of seriousness to the stories, though, from the importance of friends, to trying to deal with a bully, and even one about animal testing. Sfar keeps the humor running the entire time, though, and the end result is a little something for everyone.
I’m always impressed with how much detail Sfar can fit onto a single page of his art. Pages usually have somewhere between six and twelve panels, and Sfar never cuts corners inside each one; from the billows of smoke coming off of Grandpa’s candle, to the pattern on a vase in the background of a scene, Sfar carefully crafts each piece of art to full effect. His characters look great too, of course, from Little Vampire’s big innocent eyes, to the Captain’s elegant curls and pirate hat, everyone looks very different from each other in what is a simple basic design, but a beautiful end result.
I’m seriously happy that Little Vampire is back in print—and when you consider this collection of three volumes is only a dollar more than either of the single volumes were back in 2003, well, this is a tremendous deal. (It’s almost like you’re getting the first two stories for free.) Best of all, since the spine notes that this is Volume 1, I’m hoping this means we get some more Little Vampire soon. It’s just fun, pure and simple.