Red Riding Hood Redux (Red Riding Hood, The Wolf, The Grandmother, The Mother, and The Hunter)
Nora Krug, writer/artist
80 pages per volume
$5 individually, $20 for the set, if I recall correctly
I’m going to make Nora Krug’s multifaceted, wordless retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood story sound dreary and depressing if I say that it’s about the ugly business of adult life: Grief, greed, alcoholism, joyless sex, irrevocable mistakes, brutal dominion over animals. The thing is, it’s not not about those things–they’re present in the five interlocking little volumes, each presenting not just the point of view but the literal eye-view (and sometimes mind’s-eye-view) of a different character in the story, that are bundled together with a rubber band to form the overall package. But Red Riding Hood Redux is also about vivid and skillful use of color, clever formal play, astute visual shorthand, baroque and virtuoso storytelling, funny comic business, and the sheer pleasure of telling a shaggy dog tale. Krug deftly reintroduces us to the specifics of the Red Riding Hood story, from the stuff we all remember (“What big ears you have!”) to the stuff we thought we’d forgotten (Grandma and Red filling the sleeping wolf’s belly up with rocks in order to dupe him into still feeling full after the hunter frees them). Oftentimes she presents us with only the half of key sequences and conversations that our current POV character can see, leaving us to fill in the blanks first mentally and then, with great pleasure, through the other side of the story when we get to the other characters’ versions. But just as much fun, if not more, are the aspects of the tale Krug concocts on her own. Maybe there really was a love triangle between Red’s mom, the hunter, and Red’s dad, who by the way was imprisoned for the accidental killing of Grandpa, but I sure never heard it in the versions of the story I was told; Krug imbues this whole bedroom drama with heart, laughs, and real regret. At other times she gets fanciful, creating a bizarre Journey to the Center of the Earth-style world-within-world inside the Wolf’s belly, and continuing the Wolf’s story post-mortem in a fashion that delighted this animal lover to no end. Krug’s simple line and deft coloring are both perfect fits for the project, keeping things childlike while still able to convey all kinds of information and emotional content within the sparse one-frame-per-page set-up she’s using. Heck, just the way she drew Grandma and Red’s views when they get drunk was worth the price of admission. If you can snag this, by all means do so.