'Troll Bridge' Review by Counter Monkey John Arminio
It’s that Neil Gaiman story that’s a mature fairy tale for adults with the pale, wan protagonist dressed in black.
Um, I need more.
You know, the one where childhood sins have a lifelong effect on the soul of the main character? With art by Coleen Doran?
Um, can you be more specific?
Heavy implementation of magical realism with a sympathetic antagonist and lettering by Todd Klein?
I need more….
Hardy har har. In all seriousness, I am a sucker for Neil Gaiman and
one would be hard pressed to find something of his I don’t love. But why should anyone else love him, and Troll Bridge, the way that I do?
Troll Bridge is a graphic novel adaptation of a Neil Gaiman short story originally published in 1998, two years after the conclusion of his magnum opus in the comic book world, the Universe-spanning Sandman series. Troll Bridge itself is sort of a distillation of every Neil Gaiman trope and why they work and how they are conducive to compelling storytelling. Since the 1980s, Neil Gaiman has picked or has attracted talented and perfectly suited collaborators; creative individuals who complement and enhance his work. Colleen Doran is one such collaborator, one who has been illustrating Gaiman’s writing since the Sandman days. Her ability to manifest the fantastical tales that Gaiman creates in lucid dreaming detail is unparalleled. Her characters are immediate and realistically rendered, even when they are mystical beings like trolls, but the worlds they inhabit, the environs they cross, are straight out of our shared dreams.
Troll Bridge’s protagonist is as archetypal a character as can be envisioned; a young boy exploring a newly discovered path. Such journeying youths are familiar to anyone who has read Gaiman’s comics or novels, or fantasy literature in general. What makes this venture so engrossing is the landscape Gaiman’s character chooses to traverse across is initially a meadow so pristine and glowing, it brings to mind suggestions of Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World. Like Wyeth’s painting though, there is an air of foreboding mystery, a sense of something lurking, waiting to entrap us. And oh, is there ever.
The titular troll’s entrance is both shocking and expected. Sure, we go from golden meadow to a Mirkwood-like maze of gnarled trees and shade of unnatural darkness, but our protagonist’s curiosity and urgency in pressing forward provide a certain veil of security. Seeing the troll’s tusks, giant stature, and wiry-haired nakedness break this bucolic boyhood fantasy of woodsy exploration is thrilling; a sudden material danger in a world previously devoid of it (or at least concrete forms of it). When the troll declares that he wishes to “eat your life,” it is almost as if he means the reader just as much as the young boy who has wandered too far into this land of tangible dreams.
Since this encounter occurs so early in the book, it’s obvious that the boy’s life is not eaten, but his method of escape lends an air of dark foreboding to the man he might become.
Like the boy, the future of his idyllic childhood town, tucked away in a countryside of memory, is only destined for darker things. Such is the synchronicity of so much of Gaiman’s work. The same horrors are occurring to the boy as are committed by the boy as are enacted upon the land the story takes place in. Even the reader is not immune to this effect, as the caress of the troll’s gnarled, clawed hands reach out from Doran’s luminous pages and Gaiman’s glowing prose to caress our face just as they threatens the boy’s.
As Troll Bridge progresses, this multi-mirrored storytelling continues. The town of our protagonist’s birth drifts further and further from the form he once knew just as he becomes more cynical and distant, drifting further and further from the boy he once was. His own language matures but, at the same time, is more inhuman in its lack of hope. He walks across plains more purgatorial than fantastical; endless plateaus of steam and smoke with soulless prefabricated homes dotting the dreamscape. There certainly has been some “life-eating,” but who has done the feasting and to whom is open to interpretation.
Ultimately, Troll Bridge is a dark fairy tale and the narrative follows the path laid out by the form of such stories. However, like much of Gaiman’s work (and the best of fairy tales in general), Troll Bridge uses these paths to find something new within us, something nascent and unexplored. It is touching and tragic but leaves us better for having experienced it.
One more logo design from Todd Klein’s blog, but this isn’t a Klein logo; it’s the first sketches that would turn into Alex Jay’s iconic Mighty Thor logo from the Walt Simonson run in the mid-’80s. – Graeme
gerardway: DOOM PATROL #6- In Stores Now! We did it! Arc one concludes. I am so very proud of this arc and our team and just lucky to be a part of what I think are some really fun, heart-strong, and strange comics. (Also gorgeous thanks to the art team of @Nickderington, Tom Fowler inks on issue 6, and Tamra Bonvillain.) Todd Klein helped it flow wonderfully with the lettering as always. We have Samplerman on the variant! **EXTRA SPECIAL thanks to Tom Fowler for sweeping in with some outstanding inks and getting us across the finish line. Also thanks to Jamie S. Rich and Molly Mahan for working their editorial magic. Shelly Bond who helped Nick and I kickstart this thing. And warm thanks to Dan DiDio, Jim Lee (@jimleeart), and the brilliant DC Comics team for all the love, courage, and support. I am so very excited for you all to read this one, as it ties almost everything up (I hope). And of course we’ve got a new and ridiculous Bane’s Coloring Corner by Brandon Bird. I also wanted to share with you the amazing gifts Nick gave me to commemorate the first arc, and our Doom Patrol summit we are having at the house right now. We’ll be working away fine tuning arc two, catching up schedule-wise, and getting back on track— can’t wait to see you all join us again for Arc 2! Credits: Written by Gerard Way Pencils and cover by Nick Derington Inks by Tom Fowler Colors by Tamra Bonvillain Letters by Todd Klein Variant cover by Samplerman With “Bane’s Coloring Corner” by Brandon Bird #dcyounganimal#doompatrol#dccomics#janestown #brickbybrick#fugg#dannytheambulance