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Wonderland: Hooray for Millenarian Revolutionary Cults!

Updated on October 22, 2011

"Alice in Wonderland" is probably the most reimagined children's book ever. Sequel books, comics, movies, video games and the like are all over the place--I've even reviewed another one previously. Something about the madcap whimsy of the original inspires people to create new stories.

Oddly enough, considering how plotless the original was, plot is almost always what these new reimaginings insert. While some times the plots can be well-written, doing that when the source material was basically a little girl wandering about a nonsensical landscape seems to have oddly missed the point.

While Tommy Kovac and Sonny Liew's comic "Wonderland" has more of a plot than the original, I feel that it captures the original's madcap insanity better than most. While its meandering plot does cause some confusion (a minor character from the middle of the story suddenly is given incredible importance at the end with no explanation as to why, as an example), it also is able to capture quite a lot of the charm of the original.

"Wonderland" takes place after the end of the events of "Alice," and revolves around Mary Ann. If you don't remember Mary Ann from "Alice," that's because she never appeared: she was the White Rabbit's servant who the Rabbit mistook Alice for. And it is because of this mistake on the Rabbit's part that he is now in trouble: his association with Alice, or "the Alice Monster" as everyone calls her, gets him labeled a traitor by the Queen of Hearts. In defense of her master, Mary Ann hits the queen over the head with her scepter, and now both are fugitives, along with Mary Ann's not so trusty feather duster Feather. They soon encounter the imperious Queen of Spades, a rival of the Queen of Hearts who had been trapped in a treacle well,who makes her escape and now plots to take over rulership of Wonderland. In addition, Alice apparently left behind her a cult known as the Curious who see her as a sort of Messiah figure and believe Mary Ann to be her replacement, and the Cheshire Cat slinks in and out of the story, influencing events for his own bizarre reasons.

The character of Mary Ann is of course the center of the story, and she is quite good at it. Resembling Alice slightly (being a sensible little girl), she is much more interested in order and especially cleanliness, loathing dirtiness above all else. She's also significantly less anti-authoritarian than Alice, as she somewhat naturally slides into positions of subservience around everyone else, much to Feather's irritation. The feather duster (some sort of bird who has been made into one against his will) desires a life of power or at least a better position, which given that his job is to stick his crown of feathers into very dusty places makes sense. This of course makes him a great counterpart to Mary Ann, pointing out how she could be free from her role as a maid if she wanted to.The fact that she doesn't want to gives her character a very interesting spin.

The White Rabbit is also interesting, as he starts out rather cold to Mary Ann, leery to associate with her as she is a servant, but he grows to appreciate her kindness and friendship as the story goes along. Also, as the character who the most horrible things happen to, you can't but feel for the guy. The Queen of Spades is an odd character, as she is kind of the direct opposite of the Queen of Hearts: while the other queen is insane and consumed by her passions, Spades is sensible but cold and imperious. A common element of other adaptation is to introduce an opposite number to the Queen of Hearts/Red Queen who is noble and nice. Spades has neither trait; in some ways she is actually worse than Hearts--at least Hearts is egalitarian in her attempts to have people beheaded; Spades is perhaps the most cruelly classist character in the entire book.

The imprint of Alice is also everywhere. Although she does not appear (except for a silhouette in one panel), everyone remembers her. As I mentioned before, there is a growing rebel movement that views her as a religious figure, and the Queen of Heart's terror of her sets the plot into motion. It is also implied that Mary Ann and Alice are connected in some way, that they may in fact be different aspects of the same person. Although she doesn't contribute much to the plot, her presence in the background makes the story richer as the residents of Wonderland try to figure out what her adventures in Wonderland meant to them.

All in all , this comic captured the strangeness of Wonderland rather well. I really like the character of Mary Ann, and I liked how the White Rabbit was developed. Seeing Wonderland after Alice passed through and how it changed was also interesting. If you liked the original "Alice in Wonderland, " definitely check this story out


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