Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Free Country: A Tale of The Children's Crusade Review (Neil Gaiman, Toby Litt)


In the early ‘90s, Neil Gaiman, Jamie Delano, and a handful of other creators from Vertigo came up with a crossover title starring the kids from their various comics. There was the Dead Boy Detectives from Sandman, Maxine from Animal Man, Dorothy from Doom Patrol, Tefe from Swamp Thing, Suzy from Black Orchid, and Timothy Hunter from The Books of Magic. They called it The Children’s Crusade and two issues were published but the story was apparently unfinished. 

Two and a bit decades later, both issues have been collected for the first time in Free Country: The Children’s Crusade with the missing piece linking both issues written by Toby Litt, the latest writer on Dead Boy Detectives. Kids have been stolen in our world and taken to this Never Never Land place called Free Country. It’s up to the Dead Boy Detectives to find and bring them back or something. 

This book was complete garbage! The story is so damn boring with almost nothing happening in its entirety, and it’s structured so poorly, it’s a godawful mess. Gaiman writes in the introduction: 

"I remember the main problem being that bits of plot that had been handed out to the other books weren't actually in those books when they were done. In retrospect, it's not even surprising: nobody told any of the Vertigo writers what to do, the editors actually overseeing things had never done a crossover, and actually, herding cats is easier than persuading writers to take part in a crossover once the rural retreat is over." 

So basically it was a disaster – and it reads like it too! Apparently there were annuals from the various Vertigo titles that tied into The Children's Crusade but there's no mention of that in the promo material and they're definitely not included in this book. That explains the large gaps in the story and the fragmentary feel of the narrative - but if they were printed before, why were they left out of this collected edition? Don't DC own those rights?! So frustrating - no wonder nothing makes sense!! 

The pages are overwritten with far too many text boxes and dialogue, none of which is interesting to read or terribly relevant to the plot. The kid characters are all annoying twerps - I don’t know how you feel about the Dead Boy Detectives but I really don’t like them and had I know they were the protagonists of this book, I never would’ve requested it! 

The stories of The Children’s Crusade, Robert Browning’s poem Childe Roland to The Dark Tower Came, and the Pied Piper are mixed in, I think, because they all feature kids. Gaiman and co. try to connect them all , along with the various disparate characters, and none of it hangs together well in the slightest. I suppose the art’s not bad – we get to see Chris Bachalo’s early work here – but generally it’s nothing that special. 

Free Country: The Children’s Crusade is horrible, bad fantasy gibberish that’s near unreadable – avoid!

Free Country: A Tale of The Children's Crusade

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