It was a delightful surprise to find in the library this IDW reprint of the graphic novel from 1995 (it was one of the first publications from the Homage imprint of Wildstorm comics) – it is a very fine packaging of the material in a format that does the story and art justice. Because The Wizard’s Tale is a wonderful book: an utterly charming fairy tale with beautiful, exquisite and equally charming art, full of colourful and distinct characters plus tiny background details that bring the story to life.
Once upon a time … there was an evil wizard called Bafflerog Rumplewhisker, descended from a long line of evil wizards. Except he can’t quite get the hang of being evil, no matter how hard he tries – he attempts a storm spell over the village overlooked by his evil castle, only to bring them a nice rain to help them with their drought, even producing a rainbow at the end. Because of this, Lord Grimthorne of the Darksome Council comes to visit Rumplewhisker Keep to demand that Bafflerog finds The Book of Worse, which was hidden by Grumpwort, the toad who lives in the keep and whom Bafflerog calls friend, even though the toad is supposed to be his prisoner. If Bafflerog doesn’t find the book, Grimthorne will destroy the castle. The Book of Worse contains all the spells of all the evil wizards and would have tipped the balance in the final battle between the wizards of light and dark, until stolen by a young wizard of the light called Basil, who spirited it away before the dark wizards could find it. He was then turned into Grumpwort, but he never told anyone this; until now, providing Bafflerog with more details to help him on his quest. Grumpwort does this because Bafflerog is different from the other dark wizards – Grumpwort and Bafflerog are genuinely friends – and so points him in the direction of the book ‘four realities downward’, into a realm more familiar to readers …
I think that it’s universally accepted that Busiek is a talented storyteller across many genres, so I don’t have to lavish praise on the story. The hyperbole should be pointed in the direction of Wenzel’s art – I had never seen it before (he’s well known for an adaptation of The Hobbit) but it’s fantastic. The charming style perfectly depicts the fairy tale milieu but it’s not just this element that makes his artwork so impressive: the attention to detail and level of charm he brings to each panel without ever losing the narrative flow that makes reading it such a pleasure. Pages are crammed with tiny characters spilling out of the panel borders, something that adds to the magical dimension of the story but also reflects the fleeing nature of the little creatures as they try to hide from view by escaping the frame of artwork so that they can’t be observed. The artwork is meticulous yet warm, magical yet believable, entrancing yet clear – it creates a synthesis with the story and words that makes them all better.
This is a lovely book: warm, inspiring, delightful, enchanting and a joy from start to finish, with a lovely atmosphere throughout. Highly recommended.