Friday , April 19 2024

Book Review: ‘Cheshire Crossing’ by Andy Weir with Illustrations by Sarah Andersen

If you ever wondered what would happen when you combine The Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan, and Alice in Wonderland, one convincing outcome would be Cheshire Crossing. Andy Weir (The Martian) developed the story of this graphic novel geared toward young adults, with illustrations by cartoonist Sarah Andersen.

Crossing focuses on Dorothy, Wendy, and Alice in 1910, several years after their respective adventures. It turns out that the three young ladies haven’t adjusted to the regular world and have been sent off to various institutions to be treated for dissociative disorder. They meet for the first time at Cheshire Crossing, a facility run by Dr. Ernest Rutherford, his colleague named Lem, and Miss Poole, the nanny.

The ladies are astonished to learn that Rutherford believes they can travel to other worlds. However, Alice wants nothing to do with his research interests and attempts to escape. Wendy catches her using Dorothy’s shoes and tries to stop her, but Alice had already activated the power of the shoes. Wendy and Alice wind up in, you guessed correctly, the Land of Oz.

In Weir’s story, the Wicked Witch of the West is not dead after all, which spells trouble for Wendy and Alice. Dorothy and Miss Poole figure out a way to cross over to Oz, in hopes of bringing the other two home. What ensues is a battle that impacts Oz, Neverland, and Wonderland. Captain Hook enters the fray and becomes an ally of the Wicked Witch of the West.

To understand this graphic novel, you need some familiarity with the original classic stories by L. Frank Baum, J.M. Barrie, and Lewis Caroll. It’s important to remember that certain rules of one world do not apply to another. Crossing is packed with clever and hilarious references to the classics. In one scene, Dorothy remarks to Alice, “You’ve completely lost your mind. I know a guy who can get you a new one.”

If you are a fan of the Flying Monkeys, they play a big role in Crossing. I enjoyed how the Flying Monkeys would answer the Wicked Witch as she called out orders. One says to her, “Why did you tell them to fly? Did you think they planned to walk?”

Despite their initial arguments, the three ladies become friends and learn how to work together with their powers. That’s vital to their success because the Wicked Witch and Captain Hook prove to be a formidable baddie team. Other characters from across the classic stories appear in minor roles, but Alice, Wendy, and Dorothy are the ones saving the day here with their ingenuity and fighting skills.

Andersen’s illustrations are executed with excellent skill and poise. There’s a vibrant energy in the frames as she depicts the action for a fight scene through the directionality of her pen strokes. A particularly memorable comic frame contains overlapping drawings of a shrinking Alice. The graphic novel illustrations appear well-suited to being converted into an animated television series or film for young adults.

There are some points that could be explored further if Weir decides to revisit these characters in a sequel. Miss Poole is a surprising character with her own magical powers, but there’s no backstory as to why. Additionally, I was left wondering why Dr. Rutherford chose the name Cheshire Crossing for his institution and why he believes in the ability to jump to other worlds.

Cheshire Crossing is a fantastic graphic novel adding a new chapter to the lives of beloved literary characters. Weir adeptly weaves together elements from Oz, Neverland, and Wonderland that are fun to recognize and point out to your friends. This crossover story is a must-read.

About Pat Cuadros

Pat Cuadros is Pop Culture Editor for Blogcritics Magazine. She frequently covers TV, film and theater. Her portfolio includes interviews with Ndaba Mandela and actors Juliette Binoche, Fran Drescher, Derek Jacobi and Brent Spiner. She's also spoken with notable voice actors Petrea Burchard, Garry Chalk, Peter Cullen and Brian Drummond.

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