Most people seem to like this one more than I did, but I still liked it. I didn’t think I was going to have much to say about it because it just didn’t really vibrate on my level, plus—and I can’t believe more people haven’t brought this up in their reviews—it really hasn’t aged well. But then I wrote quite a bit.
This book focuses on Barbie, a side character (formerly married to Ken, natch) who last showed up in The Doll’s House. She and the residents of her apartment building get roped into a magical horror adventure involving a dreamworld Barbie used to travel to in her sleep, that she hasn’t been able to access in two years, not since her encounter with Rose in Vol. 2. That dreamworld is now under attack by a mysterious entity called the Cuckoo, who also seems to have reach into the real world. Barbie’s friends are all queer people and social outliers, like Thessaly (who turns about to be a scary witch despite her bland outward appearance). My favorite of the bunch is Wanda, a trans woman. She feels the most fleshed out. (She also gets done the dirtiest. More on that later.)
I wasn’t really involved in the dreamworld at all. I didn’t really care what happened to all the dreamworld characters who were supposedly in peril. I didn’t really like the reveal at the end about the Cuckoo. I did like the idea that even the most dull-seeming person in the world has entire universes in their minds. I wanted more development of all the residents of Barbie’s apartment building. Except for Wanda (and Thessaly, when she was being scary), none of them felt all that real, including Barbie. It really rubbed me the wrong way that a lesbian woman (Hazel) wouldn’t understand the mechanisms of reproduction, but maybe those are my own biases. I also hated the ending.
SPOILERS I hated that Wanda died. And the only black woman in the story also died, so that Barbie could live. At least, that’s the way it seemed. I really didn’t like that the moon didn’t consider Wanda a woman, even as the murdered George kept calling Wanda a man and wanting to bond with “him”. The very ending makes it clear that the narrative is on the side of Wanda being right, and we get to see her in her ideal form, as she sees herself, but it just struck the wrong note with me. That she had to die in order to get what she wanted. Maybe that was the point, but blech. I would have rather had it be Barbie that died, to be honest END SPOILERS.
I was just a wee child when this first came out, busy watching Disney movies on VHS and playing with (ironically) Barbie dolls, to know the historical context here. But I’m pretty sure not many people, if any at all, were writing about queer people like this at the time, at least not in mainstream comics. Two lesbians and a trans woman play a vital role here, and the trans woman is by far the best character. Also, there’s a homeless black woman and a literal witch, in addition to a “princess.” At the time this must have felt revolutionary. Now, it just seems like a white man sort of playing around with things he didn’t really understand. I feel like if he were writing this today, it all would have played out very differently.
Also, as many people have noted, not enough Morpheus.
[3.5 stars, rounding up]