A Cure for Fantasy Fatigue
Call it fantasy fatigue. After 12 hours of the extended Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, five Harry Potter novels (with each successive novel seeming to double in size), and endless fantasy knockoffs such as Eragon, the new best-selling novel started by author Christopher Paolini when he was only 15, I am growing seriously tired of fantasy.
Not that I haven’t enjoyed most of these fantasies. The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter are so successful precisely because they are at the top of their respective fantasy forms. After all, the genre is rooted in teenage angst and that familiar sense of growing up, leaving our families, and going out into the larger world. After a few years in the real world, people begin to ask, “Is this it? Is this all there is to the world?” This is where successful works, like the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, step in. They provide the illusion that there is more to the world than we see in our day-to-day lives.
No, what is wearing me out about the fantasy genre is its solemn seriousness. At some point the endless battles with evil over all-important rings or the fate of the world grow a little old. You just want to yell, “Stop. Lighten Up. Life isn’t always this grim and serious!”
All of which brings me to Boneyard, a hilarious fantasy comic book by Richard Moore. Boneyard is the story of Michael Paris, a down-on-his-luck young man who has just inherited the Raven’s Hollow Boneyard from his dead grandfather. (“You actually call your cemetery a boneyard?” he asks the town’s mayor upon first seeing the place, to which the mayor responds, “You’d prefer corpse farm?”)
Along with ownership of the boneyard comes a resident horror-show community: a 1950s James Dean version of a werewolf in shades and leather jacket, a cockney-accented witch whose only facial feature is an oversized nose, a talking skeleton who is a sex addict, and a cute vampire named Abbey. Paris also finds out in short order that there’s a serious down side to cemetery ownership the devil wants the place and he’ll stop at nothing to get it.
While this might sound like a B-level fantasy setup complete with apocalyptic, fate-of-humanity overtones Moore turns the comic into much more by keeping it from ever being too serious. For example, when the devil plots the downfall of humanity, his plan naturally depends on gaining control of Paris’s cemetery. His bold step to bring about the end of the world: Send in the IRS to audit Paris. (Now why hasn’t Lord Voldemort tried doing that to Harry Potter?)
But even as Moore’s writing throws witty joke after joke at the reader, the main reason that Boneyard has created such a loyal fan base is because of the attention that he gives to his characters. Aside from the conflict with the devil, the plot focuses on Paris’s developing relationship with the vampiress Abbey. While “I’m in love with a vampire” stories have been done to death (so to speak), Moore’s attention to characterization and his perfect balance between sexual innuendo, tension, and romantic interest keeps the reader interested in where this budding relationship is going.
Another draw is Moore’s unique style of detailed black and white drawings. Not only has his artwork shown remarkable growth over the course of the series, but his ability to render individual faces with his art makes him something of a rarity among comic artists.
Boneyard doesn’t pretend to be great literature with a deep meaning. However, by being true to his own characters and writing, Moore creates one of the best comic books out there a comic that leaves a good feeling inside after you finish reading each issue. I’ll take this lighthearted version of fantasy any day over the rest of a too-serious-for-its-own-good genre that has long since worn out its welcome.
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