Review – The Wendy Project (Papercutz)

Publisher: Papercutz
Writer: Melissa Jane Osborne
Artist: Veronica Fish
Release Date: 25th July 2017

Sixteen year-old Wendy Davies is involved in a car crash while driving with her two brothers.  When she awakes, she is told that her youngest brother Michael tragically lost his life in the crash.  But Wendy disagrees, claiming that Michael was actually rescued from the wreckage by a mysterious flying boy and is actually alive and well in a faraway land.

Forced into counseling, Wendy is advised by her therapist to start drawing her thoughts in a sketchbook, leaving the reader to try and figure out whether her drawings are just a way for her to cope with her grief, or are actually a portal to an exciting, fantastical new world.

The Wendy Project is an original graphic novel from writer Melissa Jane Osbourne and artist Veronica Fish, and chronicles young Wendy’s life from the traumatic night of the crash onward.  It feels like we’re almost being given a glimpse at her sketchbook itself at times, with snapshots of her inner thoughts being provided as she struggles to reconcile the differing accounts of what happened to her brother.

The first thing that hits you about this book are Veronica Fish’s beautiful illustrations, which manage to be both understated and striking at the same time.  Everything has a sketch-like quality, but there’s a level of detail and expression to Fish’s pencils that truly helps give the book its beating heart.  We feel every one of Wendy’s emotions, from pain and frustration to excitement and hope, and a large part of the connection is due to the impressive artwork.

The Wendy Project also features some of the best use of colour that I’ve seen in a long, long time. The bulk of the story is rendered in a traditional grayscale, but the pages are punctuated by flashes of colour which add extra context and symbolism to the proceedings.  The colour is used sparingly to highlight anything that relates to Michael’s mysterious fate, giving the book an ethereal, magical quality which draws us deeper and deeper into Wendy’s story, making us gradually believe (or should that be hope?) that her explanation for her brother’s disappearance is actually true.

Osbourne weaves a beautifully poignant narrative, keeping things ambiguous for the most part as Wendy struggles to exist in the “real” world while desperately trying to find a way to reach her brother.  It’s difficult to delve too deeply into the arc the character takes without diminishing the impact of reading it for yourself, but suffice to say that we get to meet some of her friends, her eldest brother John and her parents, each of whom have their own direct impact on the direction her story takes.

The denouement is powerful and emotional, and yet both Fish and Osbourne still opt to leave a small measure of ambiguity, letting the reader reach their own conclusion and providing a story that will clearly read differently for different people.  Whatever way you interpret it, however, there’s still something deeply satisfying about the way things wrap themselves up, and the final pages provide an impassioned sign-off to this thoroughly unique story.

Providing a wonderful twist on J.M. Barrie’s iconic work, and packed with emotion, humanity and just a dash of magic, The Wendy Project will stay with you long after you’ve put the book down.  A meditation on grief, depression, imagination and hope, both Osbourne and Fish should be immensely proud of what they’ve created here, and I’m happy to give this original graphic novel my highest possible recommendation.

Rating: 5/5.

ceejThe writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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