Briar #1 is BOOM! Studios’ latest comic by Christopher Cantwell. It is a post-apocalyptic retelling of the classic Brothers Grimm tale, Sleeping Beauty. It raises the question: What If Sleeping Beauty was never awoken by her true love’s kiss and had to save herself The comic begins akin to the traditional tale: a rich kingdom in which a pretty young girl (Briar Rose) pricks her finger and falls into an unconscionable deep sleep. But, as the narration dictates, this is where the story deviates.
When the prince comes along to save the day, he does not kiss Briar but instead activates a loophole where marrying the princess will enable him to become king and make decisions without a pesky woman by his side (this is a paraphrasing of the text, not my own words). This is interesting and somewhat parallel to the original version where the prince finds Sleeping Beauty and “gathers the first fruits of love” aka he commits a heinous felony and she gives birth to twins.
Back to Briar. With the princess still asleep and the champion taking charge into battle, all goes to hell. The kingdom falls and, for over one hundred years, it lay in ruin. One day, a mysterious figure places its lips on Briar Rose and she awakens thirsting for water and unable to speak. The story rolls on with Briar trying to understand the new world and what her place in it is. By doing so, she encounters slave traders, desert Wastelands, and beings previously unknown to her—blue-skinned humanoids known as Norrish.
The final pages show Briar and Spider (Norrish captive) walking into the Wastes with the line: “Yay, my sleepless hands would soon be awash in blood”. If you have read my reviews of Alice Ever After, then you would know I am quite enraptured by reimaginings of old stories. Briar piqued my interest as soon as I read about it via the BOOM! Studios Twitter account but the tale itself took me by surprise. I did not expect it to turn into a post-apocalyptic world.
Utilizing the story technique of dystopia enables Cantwell to grasp tropes and storylines you may not see in traditional tales such as a world with varying biomes, new creatures, prophecies, and people who have ulterior motives. While these are exciting and different when pushed into Sleeping Beauty, they bring nothing new to the genre. Germán García, an up-and-coming artist, illustrates the pages by employing a minimalist design to capture the essence of the tale.
Character emotions are simple yet obvious and backdrops are usually blocking colors. Before I read it, I expected a more detailed depiction but felt García’s choices paid off in the end, especially with a full page spread and blood splatter of a raving lunatic. I liked the approach Cantwell took and am interested in seeing where the story goes but I would also like to see it tie back into the traditional tale.
For example, will Maleficent or equivalent show up—although she is a Disney-fied character—or will there be an ending akin to other versions where Briar ends up meeting an evil witch who wants to eat her babies? Who knows? As a new entry with unique ideas, I give Briar #1 comic 3.5 out of 5 stars with the potential to grow over the course of the four-part series.
Briar #1 is out now!
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