Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer: Vol. 1 and 2
written by Van Jensen
illustrated by Dusty Higgins
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- Related Editorial: The Puppet Masters: An Interview with Van Jensen and Dusty Higgins
It's perfectly logical, if you think about it: Whenever Pinocchio tells a lie, his nose grows into a sharp wooden spike—perfect for impaling vampires. When faced with an unexpected adversary, he quickly tells a lie, snaps off his nose, and gets to work.
Van Jensen and Dusty Higgins have managed to make this more than a one-joke comic by throwing in plenty of plot twists and giving Pinocchio and his companions a human side. The graphic novel relies heavily on Carlo Collodi's original story, and a few of Walt Disney's additions are pruned away in volume 1. (The cricket stays, but he's a ghost.) Scenes from the book are depicted in a folkloric woodcut style, and it's nice to see the original story highlighted this way.
The first volume introduces the bones of the original story but doesn't follow it exactly. Instead, the scene switches to a vampire gliding down the streets of a darkened town. Text boxes carry a first-person narration of a predator on the prowl, but when the vampire attacks, the narrative is inverted—the predator is not the vampire but Pinocchio, who uses himself as bait and then stabs the vampire with his wooden nose.
Pinocchio's creator, Geppetto, has been killed by the vampires, and Pinocchio takes refuge with the carpenter, Mr. Cherry, and the Blue Fairy (who, true to the original, is old) while hunting vampires by night. His nose is a constant source of embarrassment, as even the slightest untruth causes it to grow—making for an awkward scene when he tries to act nonchalant around Carlotta, a charming young lady with the looks and steely resolve of a Disney princess. The first volume winds up with a dramatic reveal and some more surprising twists.
The second volume brings even more twists. The puppets from the traveling marionette show that Pinocchio once joined show up to help out, and Mr. Cherry returns. This story is more complex and more episodic, and there is a dramatic climax halfway through. This drastically changes the tone of the story, and it becomes a bit lighter, as the traveling marionettes provide a lot of comic relief. The vampires kidnap Carlotta and take her away on a ship, so Pinocchio and the puppets stow away on another ship.
While the story is dark, with plenty of fighting and killing, it is not terribly gory. Pinocchio is a convincing teenager, and the other characters are well defined and interesting enough to carry their roles. A lot of the poses and staging are taken from classic horror movies and graphic novels, so the story has a familiar feel to it, but the dialogue is witty and the plot is not too predictable. This is truly an original story that stretches Collodi's tale far beyond its beginnings but makes sense on its own terms.