Page 45 Review by Stephen
One of the most affecting short stories of all time brought to poignantly pencilled life by one of the true masters of comics: P. Craig Russell who successfully, transcendently adapted Wagner's opera cycle THE RING OF THE NIBELUNG, Lois Lowry's THE GIVER and Neil Gaiman's MURDER MYSTERIES, SANDMAN: DREAM HUNTERS and so much more. I first read the prose in my late teens and it's stayed in my heart ever since. Here P. Craig Russell has done wonders with the work, his fine, clean line lit with lambent colours. I even love what he's done with the speech bubbles linked to their square-boxed, qualifying commentary. More than anything, though, his art here is the ultimate essay in tenderness.
A gilded statue of The Happy Prince stands much admired, a large ruby gleaming on his sword-hilt; his two eyes are clear, bright sapphires. Alive, he enjoyed a life of privileged pleasure and opulence in a rarefied, snowglobe existence entirely detached from the wider world outside the sequestered court. He was indeed very happy. But now as a statue raised high above the city, he can finally see the misery endured by the sick and the impoverished, the industrious yet ill-rewarded, while the rich who have so much think so little of those who serve them. It makes him weep, and his tears fall like pure drops of rain onto a tiny swallow below. The swallow should have migrated to Africa with his friends many moons ago, but the prince begs him to tarry a while longer and act as his courier. For there are those in dire need - a seamstress with a sick child, a playwright struggling to stay warm and meet his deadline, a matchgirl whose matches have fallen into drain water and will be beaten by her father - and the prince has much of himself to give.
It's a story of iniquity and inequality, self-sacrifice and true love, no matter the consequences. It's about countries and councils who throw so much of their wealth into useless, vainglorious monuments and enterprises, while failing to meet the most basic needs of those they would govern.
Almost every panel has something satirical to say about people's priorities in life or their position and disposition in society. Even the swallow's fanciful dalliance with a slender reed says so much when thrown into contrast with its fateful falling in love with The Happy Prince.
This is the same Oscar Wilde of The Importance Of Being Earnest, but here his boisterous wit is quietly contained, concentrated and considered; the tone no less passionate, but the passion - along with his supreme command of the English language - is harnessed to a quiet, dignified indictment of the superficial few who squander so much, a celebration of the redistribution of wealth, and a relevant reminder that as far as poverty goes there is always much more to be done.
It's also a tribute to true, selfless love and, once again, it made me cry.
We finally have all of THE FAIRY TALES OF OSCAR WILDE in softcover now, each one reviewed. I'd stick to those: some of the hardcovers are out of print.