Written and Illustrated by: Craig Sinclair
Sprout is a carefree elf, living in a seemingly idyllic world of fairytale and frolic. However, as our cheery protagonist makes his way through this adventure we discover a seedy, dark, and dirty side to the story that tells of neglect, abuse, and loss.
I’ve come into this project completely blind, and my first thoughts on reading this was that it feels like Enid Blyton by way of Josh Simmons, which, when I’ve gone back and looked at the info Craig Sinclair sent over seems to have been exactly what he was aiming for. So right from the start, it’s clear that this is a project which is delivering exactly what it set out to do.
I’ll admit that initially I was put off by the artwork, but once I understood where this was going, I realised that actually, the way the artwork is presented in Craig Sinclair’s story is perfectly suited to the narrative. The artwork itself is presented in a mixed media format, switching from a very loose, cartoony style to a more photorealistic style, and even to a hand-painted watercolour on textured board that works really well with the tone of the story and, for me, helps with the ambiguity and blurring of reality and fiction that is happening within.
This is (as it says on the back cover) “not suitable for nippers”, and it goes to some very dark places. As I said, this is a story of neglect, abuse and loss, and it being told predominantly through the eyes of a child’s fairytale makes it a much more uncomfortable read. There is a lot of ambiguity in this story, which really keeps the reader off balance all the way through, and it wasn’t until I got near the end that it occurred to me that I’d been looking at this from the wrong character’s perspective (at least, I’m pretty sure I was).
I’m not going to spoil anything for you but once I’d had this mini epiphany, I went back to the beginning and everything just seemed to make so much more sense, while at the same time making it that much uglier a story that makes the protagonist of the tale utterly irredeemable – for me, at least.
While I can’t see any way that you could, or would want to make this a longer story (it’s pretty effective exactly how it is), I would like to see this as part of an anthology of stories, and I think having read Sprout, that this is something that Craig Sinclair would be more than capable of doing.
As my first time reading Sinclair’s work, I’ll say this isn’t for everyone due to the themes it covers, but it’s the sort of thing I regularly read and for me this is a solid 3-3.5/5.
Sprout is available exclusively on craigsinclair.co.uk.
The writer of this piece was: Mark Scott
Mark Tweets from @macoy_comicgeek