My weekend reading included three graphic novels, and while two were “intense” they were not deeply intense like The Eternal Smile: Three Stories was. This book takes three similar themed, but very different stories and punches you in the face.
At first you are seeing the reality of the story. Things seem straight forward at first: A young man battles the “big bads” of the world, wins maiden fair and should live happily ever after. A greedy, cigar chomping frog tries to find that one thing to fill the void inside of him by getting more and more money. And finally, a woman who seems to be duped into the most obvious African Prince scam of the century. They might be/have a Patchwork Monk, or a cigar chomping frog, but you believe they are real. And of course, the woman is just every overworked, underpaid and never appreciated one of us.
But the authors and illustrators switch things up. Gene Luen Yang and Derek Kim shows you that what might seem real, might not be as real as you think. One frog’s money is another frog’s tranquil pond and one woman might not be as gullible as you might think but might be devious. At least two of the three stories have a more “finding happiness with spiritually” take and the other “finding happiness” takes on a more fantastical reality. Each story has a different style of art to match the theme. The first is almost realistic, you can see the stereotypes of hero, princess and monsters. The second is Mad Magazine, comic book colored and format. The final a dark, innocent old school-meets modern. Color is used (or not used) to accent points and to show importance.
The older reader (at least ages 14 to adult) will appreciate symbolisms and stories of this reality vs. fantasy collection.