Very few stories truly deserve a prequel, but JM Barrie’s Peter Pan – much like the original Star Wars – really was a tale that we’d wandered into half-way through via a smaller corner of the cast – that of Wendy Darling and her brothers – and plunged into a bigger battle between innocence and evil in a world far, far away.
Unlike the Star Wars prequels though, Loisel’s Peter Pan knows exactly which questions need answering, and squarely delivers.
Part of the Franco-Belgian bandes dessinées comics scene that gave us Alejandro Jodorowsky and Jean ‘Mobeius’ Giraud’s ground-breaking Incal, this take on Peter Pan is similarly grotesque, cartoonish and epic in its world-building (or rebuilding, in this case) – collected in English hardcover for the first time from six ‘album-sized’ volumes published in 1992.
The ‘very European’ (for lack of a better phrase) cynicism ties in neatly with the Freudian reading of fairy tales that has become increasingly popular in pop culture through everything from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman to NBC’s Grimm.
Peter’s dreary childhood in the Hogarthian streets of Victorian London pushes him toward an idealised, fantasy vision of motherhood, a disgust and fear of adulthood, and following assaults from gin-addled prostitutes, busty sirens, and the pristine ‘Indian’ princess Tiger Lily, a chaste relationship with a three inch fairy – the least sexually threatening partner he could dig up.
The tone is intentionally jarring, and the mood ugly and bittersweet. Amid the death and selfishness victory is essentially a retreat into fantasy and delusion, lampshaded by a would-be Lost Boy who is unceremoniously dumped back into the squalor Victorian London when his hollow-eyed grief brings the others down.