Summary: There’s a self-hate that goes along with being a geek sometimes. Yes, we’re into comic books and video games and all sorts of not-for-real-stuff, and usually we’re proud of it. But every now and then — after a nine-hour Lord of the Rings marathon, for instance — that little voice inside your head goes, “What the freak are you DOING??!!” Geek fantasy media can suck the life right outta ya. That’s what this book is about. Years ago, Derek and I did a book called Duncan’s Kingdom for Image Comics that talked about the relationship between fantasy and reality. We added two more short stories on the same topic and *ta da!* The Eternal Smile was born!
The Eternal Smile, by Gene Luen Yang and Derek Kirk Kim 8.0
After reading ‘Level Up‘, I was curious to see what else Gene Luen Yang had been up to. So, naturally, I turned to my local library to see what else of his they had on their shelves. They didn’t have much, but I requested almost all that I could find.
The first one to arrive was ‘The Eternal Smile’.
This book is a collection of three short stories that Yang wrote and that were drawn by Derek Kirk Kim – a graphic novelist in his own right (whose works I’ve also requested). It consists of three tales about the intersection of fantasy and reality.
1. Duncan’s Kingdom: First published as a stand-alone book for Image Comics, it’s a fantasy story with a clever twist. It takes us to a kingdom where a young guard goes out to get the head of the King’s killer so that he can finally wed his beloved, the Princess. Although it seems simplistic and uni-dimensional at first glance, this story is actually metaphoric. Between the brilliant idea and the eyetastic art, this one’s a keeper. 8.25
2. Gran’pa Greenbax and the Eternal Smile: Seemingly inspired from Scrooge McDuck (with cartoon art in support), this is the story of an avaricious frog businessman who decides to use the discovery of an “eternal smile” in the sky to start a religion and rake in the cash from his new parish. It’s obviously meant to be satirical and it has a lot of good moments, but it gets old fast and the twist ending isn’t too far removed from “Duncan’s Kingdom”. 7.0
3. Urgent Request: This one follows the empty life of a timid software company worker who decides to respond to an email request for money from a Nigerian prince – you know, the kind you find in your spam folder daily. I loved this one, even though it’s kind of sad and pathetic at once; there was a certain beauty in the way she decided to envision the whole thing. And the art was simple but beautifully rendered. 8.25
It’s hard to imagine but, for me, the story I was the least impressed with was the titular second story. It started off nicely, but the authors lost me halfway through. The other two, however, sustained my interest and were satisfying to the end.
‘The Eternal Smile’ is really a fine collection: it’s entertaining, thought-provoking, reads like a breeze and looks wonderful. I would easily recommend it to anyone who loves literature of all kinds and likes their brain teased in the process.
It’s sure to put a smile on their faces.