Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Magic Trixie and the Dragon: If I didn't already have a daughter, I would want to adopt this little girl

I'm a nerd:

Magic Trixie and the Dragon
By Jill Thompson

It might be odd that I find myself so charmed by a grade-school-age magical girl and her heartwarming adventures in lesson-learning, but I don't care. With Magic Trixie, Jill Thompson has created a fun, energetic, and oh-so-cute little girl that is simply a delight to spend time with, at least in book form; in real life, she would probably be exhausting. But that's the charm of this kind of fiction, and each new book in the series finds new ways to endear her to us.

Yes, it's more of the same type of simple lessons this time out, with Magic Trixie learning to appreciate the good things she has at home instead of lusting after the impossible. It's kind of similar to the morals in both of the previous two volumes (which could be boiled down, respectively, to "younger siblings aren't all that bad" and "there's no place like home"), but slightly different. Here, the object of Magic Trixie's affection is a dragon, with the yearning kicked into high gear after a visit to the circus and the viewing of a high-flying, fire-breathing, scaly monster act. It's a love affair that bears a lot of similarities to the stereotypical young girl begging for a pony, and this leaves poor kittycat pal Scratches in the lurch, feeling inadequate as a companion:

And surprisingly, considering that the previous books were limited mostly to low-key uses of magic, this adventure is much more adventurous. The simple task of transmogrifying baby sister Abby Cadabra's dirty diapers leads to an accidental transformation of Abby herself into an actual dragon when Magic Trixie's mind wanders during spellcasting, and the rest of the story consists of attempts to hide the results and clean up after the inevitable mess, not to mention reuniting with Scratches after he up and leaves when he thinks he has been replaced. It's fast-paced and exciting, with lots of pages of frenzied motion and horrified reactions, all culminating in a high-flying escape that is simultaneously scary and thrilling.

It's great stuff, of course, and as always, Thompson's sumptuous art is what brings everything to colorful, thriving life. No, more than that; it leaps off the page and drags the reader right into the story; you feel like you're part of Magic Trixie's crazy world. The range of emotions that our little witch displays is expansive, from complete and total awe at the sight of cavorting dragons:

To frustration and despair when she accidentally makes her friends think she owns one:

And check out the contrast between the skinny-limbed child and the adults she encounters like the gentleman above; they feature mostly-realistic anatomy, but don't seem out of place next to her cartooniness. And the details that Thompson packs into the panels really helps to bring the story to life; check out Magic Trixie's parents trying to enjoy a simple evening around the house while being constantly interrupted by frantic implorations:

Or the way Magic Trixie's dad reacts to Grandma Mimi's gift of fashionable accessories:

And there's plenty more, like the Evel Knievel-style performance garb of cousin Tansy's dragon-rider boyfriend (sorry, Caleb), Mimi's multi-broomed carriage-esque conveyance, or all the distinctive people and sights around the circus. The title character definitely gets the most panel time, but the way everyone and everything around her comes to life along with her makes the whole book just sing with energy and exuberance. It's one of the best comics reading experiences out there, even for those of us who are far, far out of the ideal age group. Let's hope Thompson doesn't quit crafting these beautiful books anytime soon.