By Roger Langridge
24 pages, color
Published by Boom! Studios
Roger Langridge is one of those comic creators that I’ve come to think of as "dependably good." It doesn’t matter what title he’s working on, from The Muppet Show to Thor, you automatically know that it’s going to be a great mix of drama and humor that is entertaining from start to finish. I think that’s why I had such high hopes for Snarked!, his new creator-owned series for Boom! Studios that provides his own particular spin on some the ancillary characters from Lewis Carroll’s works. And so far? It’s as excellent as I’d hoped it to be.
The comic takes minor characters like the Walrus and the Carpenter, the Gryphon, and the Red King, and sets them in their own little world where they exist side-by-side with other Carroll creations like the characters and creatures of the poem The Hunting of the Snark. From there, though, all bets are off in terms of familiarity. Langridge makes the young Queen Scarlett the protagonist here, as she finds herself and her infant brother Rusty at great danger as the kingdom’s administration attempt to seize power away from Scarlett now that her father has gone missing. Paired up with the scheming Walrus and the dimwitted Carpenter, we watch them try to outwit the bad guys even as they scramble to find out what happened to the missing Red King and try to figure out how to rescue him.
Each issue is episodic in nature, but at the same time builds towards a greater whole. For example, Snarked! #3 focuses on Scarlett trying to break back into the castle to retrieve a map that they’d learned about in the previous issue, one that would guide them to the location of the missing Red King. At the same time, the Walrus has to try and hire a ship to take them out to sea on said rescue mission, even as he tries to look out for his own skin. It’s a crafty and well thought-out storytelling technique; make sure each issue stands on its own, but also give the reader a reason to come back for the next installment. It helps that while the main characters each have one or two defining character elements (the Carpenter’s dim-witted nature, for instance, or Scarlett’s brave-little-girl adventurer persona), they’re all likeable. You want to see them succeed, and Langridge makes them each rather charming in their own particular way.
There’s also always a fun little design element in each issue, waiting to be discovered by the reader. The first issue drew a map of the city, for example, or in the third issue Scarlett’s escape through a laundry chute turns into a twisty maze for the reader to follow along as she wanders through its tunnels. Snarked! is meant as an all-ages series, and these little touches give those younger readers something to stop and examine in great detail, even as older readers will get a chuckle and grin as they recognize the twist on sequential art. Langridge is a good enough of an artist that it never comes across as a gimmick either, but instead just a fun way to present the information. His characters in general look great; they’re a little cartoonish and spritely, and I love the "what the heck?" expressions that Scarlett in particular is so good at flashing to the audience.
Snarked! is only three issues in (plus a #0 teaser released months earlier) and I’m utterly enchanted with it. I love how Langridge is teasing us with the specter of the dreaded Snark (and the Boojum!), and how he’s building up its presence and danger without ever showing it to us. Scarlett’s a great heroine, too; she’s headstrong and tough and doesn’t give up easily, all good elements for an all-ages comic book character. As with his Muppet Show comic, Langridge is giving us an all-ages comic that truly is for all ages; it’s funny, it’s entertaining, and I look forward to a new issue every month. If you’ve never read a comic by Langridge, this is as good a time as any to fix that problem. Definitely check it out.