Penny Dora and the Wishing Box #1
Writer – Michael Stock (@MichaelStockPTP)
Artist – Sina Grace (@SinaGrace)
Colorist – Tamra Bonvillain (@TBonvillain)
Letterer – Hope Larson (@hopelarson)
Review by Joey Braccino
What do you wish for?
A true appreciation for the wonderful new all-ages series from Image, Penny Dora and the Wishing Box #1, requires just a bit of backstory. In a brief letter at the back of the book, writer Michael Stock reveals that the Penny Dora story that you’ve just read is actually an adaptation of a short story called “The Magic Box” written by his then-8-year-old daughter, Nico. Next issue, Stock promises to include the original “Magic Box” stories at the back end, so as to properly source his inspiration. It’s this adorable little anecdote that lends a certain whimsy and glee and significant to the book.
The story is straightforward: Penny is a 10-year-old girl eagerly anticipating Christmas morning with her mother (recently separated from Penny’s father). On Christmas Eve, a strange gift is left on Penny’s porch. Penny and her mom assume it’s a gag gift from her father—an assumption that seems to be verified when Penny unwraps it and it’s an empty, rustic-looking box. Later that evening, however, the box starts whispering about wishes and hilarity ensues.
The premise isn’t anything particularly new, but overall, Penny Dora and the Wishing Box #1 is a strong debut from an exceptional creative team. It is Stock’s comics debut (he’s a professor and promoter and producer for the PART TIME PUNKS club network in Los Angeles), so there the script is a bit rough around the edge; there’s a certain on-the-nose quality to Stock’s third-person omniscient narration, which I’m sure is meant to parallel the sort of storytelling tenor of those classic Christmas tales or kid’s literature, but it falls flat.
Nevertheless, the simple narration is bolstered by the incredible artwork of Sina Grace and Tamra Bonvillain. Grace, of L’il Depressed Boy (a personal fav) and Burn the Orphanage fame, brings his uncanny naturalism to Penny Dora, countering the actually-simplistic script with his deceptively-simple artwork. The manner in which he lays out frames and shifts perspective from character to character, object to object, is brilliant, and it makes for an engaging visual experience. Bonvillain, whose diverse color palette on the recent Sleepy Hollow adaptation was one of the highlights of that book and whose name is absolutely awesome, relies on a very dynamic, green-intensive palette for this book, imbuing Grace’s realism with a sense of fantasy.
And freaking graphic novel superstar Hope Larson is on letters! What a team!
The highlight of the book is a single panel in which the wishes of the three primary characters—Penny, her mother, and their cat—are revealed. While her mother wishes for money and her cat wishes for ham, Penny poignantly wishes for her parents to get back together. It’s this emotional core that envelopes the entire book, and keeps this from becoming a too kitschy.
Buy! Penny Dora and the Wishing Box #1 is an engaging, visually engrossing comic book experience, perfect for all ages. The Christmas setting, Penny’s wishes for her family, and the silly little cat all make for a wonderful little story from an absolutely stellar creative team. Check it!