Alongside titles like The Simpsons, Peanuts, My Little Pony and Marvel Super Heroes this month on the all-ages shelves will be The Adventures of Augusta Wind, a new series by veteran comics scribe J.M. DeMatteis and artist Vassilis Gogtzilas.
Of course, in many retail shops, it might not make the all-ages shelf. The Adventures of Augusta Wind isn't an existing property with an established fan base, and the fantastic first issue put together by DeMatteis and Gogtzilas doesn't pander to the young audiencewith pastels and simple, unchallenging art styles and layouts. Basically, it doesn't "look" like an all-ages book.
Rather, the series eschews the safety net of the modern "all-ages" market and pursues a feeling that's so nostalgic that it feels radical. The Adventures of Augusta Wind carries with it that anarchic sense of wonder that readers get the first time they crack open The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland or Peter Pan--and like those classics of children's literature, Augusta Wind doesn't talk down to its audience. The stakes are real, the bad guys are scary and the characters and high concepts of the book make no apologies for being self-evidently fanciful.
There are elements of mythology at play in here, with the kind of cryptozoological wonders that will feel familiar to readers of books like The Perhapanauts, Hoax Hunters and Proof (all from Image) but in Augusta Wind, the creatures readers encounter have their own mythology -- one that draws from, but isn't totally derivative of, existing stories.
Augusta follows her white rabbit -- here, a fanged thing called a "snabbit" that's visible only to her and feels like a cross between Drop Dead Fred and Roger Rabbit. People my age will get those references, while those a bit older may find comfort in Harvey. The comic's target audience will likely see none of those influences, but that's alright too.
The Adventures of Augusta Wind breaks a lot of the rules of today's all-ages comics market, and comes out the other side better for it. The bold decisions Gogtzilas makes with the art will mark this book as a must-read for fans who might ordinarily picture themselves a bit too old for a book about a young girl who gradually comes to embrace her destiny as a...well, that's for the book itself, isn't it?
Like any number of the kids' lit classics I referenced above, or even Harry Potter, The Adventures of Augusta Wind finds its characters thrown into the middle of situations they scarcely understand and surrounded by strange, terrible and fanciful creatures with silly names that belie the danger they present. It's a remarkably clever and entertaining book that gives both of its creators ample opportunity to shine while setting up the series for a large-scale adventure story to come.