Antarctic Press, $4.99
The cover of Rod Espinosa’s Steampunk Snow White suggests that this one is some Asian interpretation of that familiar fairy tale, but this isn’t Mulan, folks. Instead of something filled will cultural inaccuracies while passing itself off as something supposedly authentic, this one is basically set in an European-styled fantasy setting, only our heroine goes around slashing people with vaguely Japanese swords. Why swords and not assault rifles, you ask? After all, this is meant to be steampunk, you may point out. Well, don’t look at me, I didn’t author or draw this thing!
This is a supposedly feminist take on the fairy tale, so I’m sure folks that have watched or read other similar takes on this fairy tale or Cinderella can hazard a guess at how the story will go. Yes, the evil stepmother still has a mirror, but what I like here is that, instead of behaving like some vain gonzo caring only for her looks, the evil queen actually rules the kingdom like a boss. An evil boss, yes, but still a boss. Because she is a tyrant that doesn’t care that her people are starving, the queen forces Snow White to do her PG-rated Lady Snowblood goes wild thing on the greedy, scummy people, in order to liberate their money for those oppressed people in the land. She encounters her Prince Charming, a prince that moonlights as the imaginatively-named vigilante Lone Fox, and then they stupidly take off their face coverings so that they can both look adoringly at one another. It’s a good thing that none of them are spies of the Queen sent to ferret out the other annoying vigilante!
The rest of the story goes on in a disappointingly familiar manner. Snow White is lured out to be killed by her mentor—he is ordered by the Queen to do so, naturally, because that wretch dares to outshine the Queen in terms of beauty and such—and ends up in the company of the seven dwarfs. Okay, they aren’t dwarfs here, some other species of a similarly diminutive stature with special kung-fu tricks to teach our heroine and make her even more awesome.
Now, let me point out here that once again, there is a huge missed opportunity here. Hello, steampunk! Yet, so far, the only remotely steampunk nature of this story is that the Queen’s troops look like dudes cosplaying Warhammer soldiers. Everything else feels like another medieval European fantasy rehash. So, why not make the dwarfs little metal golems or something? In a lovely alternate universe, Lone Fox will have a machine gun affixed to the stump of a hand or leg, and maybe we can have Snow White dual-wield huge chainsaws. and this comic will be a thing of beauty. As it is, it’s just another very familiar modernized take on a fairy tale that doesn’t feel very innovative or different from other takes that have been done before in books and movies.
Also, it’s a horrible letdown that, no matter how many times she has been taken in or down by the Queen’s tricks, Snow White still happily bites into the apple without any hesitation. She’s a woman on the run, and she can’t even pause to wonder whether she’s being set up? Of course, this necessitates the heroine begging her dwarf-but-not-really friends to find Lone Fox so that he can come save her. I have no words, really. Is this the kind of climactic moment that anyone will want to come across in a modernized, more feminist take of the fairy tale? To me, this turn of event feels so horribly out of place and out of touch.
Why not have Snow White be attacked by giant apple-shaped tanks instead for the exciting finale? That will also allow her to show off the awesome tricks she has learned from her stumpy friends. Have her and Lone Fox and all their friends take part in an exciting siege of the Queen’s castle, maybe?
That’s my issue with this one in a nutshell. Not only is Steampunk Snow White not much different from other modern takes of the fairy tale for the most part; at other moments, it doesn’t want to deviate from the original fairy tale at all even if that would just sabotage the story that has been set out so far. Snow White is already doing flashy sword tricks here, so surely it’s not too much to skip the whole “Oops, I’m an apple-eating moron!” scene towards the end, and reinterpret that scene into something far more in line with a modern feminist fantasy.
Oh, and the art is generally fine, although just like the story, nothing about it really wows me. I’m puzzled though, by how Lone Fox appears as a young and handsome man early on, but by the time there is a close-up of his face as he looms over the unconscious Snow White, he seems to have morphed into someone that looks more like Snow White’s uncle than boyfriend.
Anyway, this one is a missed opportunity in so many aspects, from how it never seems steampunk enough to how it doesn’t dare to go all out, guns blazing, to deliver something that will stand out from the rest of the modern fairy-tale interpretations out there.