Saturday, 25 April 2015

Hansel & Gretel Review (Neil Gaiman, Lorenzo Mattotti)


We all know the story of Hansel and Gretel, right? Brother and sister get dumped in the woods, trail of breadcrumbs (boy, who’da thunk that plan wouldn’t work!), gingerbread house in the woods, wicked witch, oven, happily ever after (with no mention of the whole abandoning your children in the woods thing). So why did we need Neil Gaiman to retell the exact same story that the Brothers Grimm told 200 years ago? We didn’t. In fact the only difference I could spot was that he omitted any mention of a witch - here she’s just your run-of-the-mill crazy old woman who lives in a house made of sweets and eats children. 

Gaiman retelling this story, practically beat for beat, is extremely lazy. It’s also 22 pages long, taking away the illustrations, so it’s a short story in book format. I guess it’s for kids but I don’t know if they’d like Lorenzo Mattotti’s unappealing and grim(m) black black BLACK art. Everything is BLACK, hey let’s cover the pages in BLACK so it’s damn near impossible to distinguish what’s on the page! 

Gaiman normally writes his stories in tandem with the artist but it’s very clear he and Mattotti weren’t in sync on this one. A good example is in other versions of this story a duck helps the siblings cross the river at the end, which appears in one of Mattotti’s last drawings, but isn’t mentioned in Gaiman’s retelling at all. 

Instead the art came first, then Gaiman wrote his piece inspired by the drawings and then the publisher decided to slap them together. Gaiman’s story is a very deliberate, mundane retelling while Mattotti’s art heavily emphasises the horror of the tale through his overbearing smudgy love of BLACK; the tones are very different and don’t mesh. 

We really didn’t need Neil Gaiman to retell a story that’s already very well-known. Even with Lorenzo Mattotti’s art, their Hansel & Gretel is entirely pointless and seems only to exist to profit off of Gaiman’s extensive fanbase, many of whom will buy anything with his name on.

Hansel & Gretel

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