In a wood far, far away…

Publisher: Top Shelf Productions
Writer: Van Jensen
Art: Dusty Higgins

I really love fairy tale takes on horror. Especially if they are humourous. Pinocchio Vampire Slayer takes the premise of ‘Pinocchio fights vampires’ and just runs with it. It’s an immensely fun book layered with humour but also some more emotional beats. It’s a really good ride and if you like your horror a little bit lighter then this is the book for you.

The setup is basically the same as the story we all know – Geppetto carves Pinocchio out of wood and there are various tales and adventures. However this diverges from the classic tale by introducing vampires who attack Geppetto and Pinocchio’s happy home and leads to Pinocchio discovering that his nose is a useful source of stakes. For yes, when Pinocchio lies his nose grows and has a point to it making it the perfect vampire slaying weapon.

So he teams up with a fairy, a friend and the ghost of a cricket and hunts monsters. The locals might not believe the vampire plague infecting the town but Pinocchio will keep trying to convince them. Of course his nose never does grow when he’s explaining about the vampires but I love how despite that he’s still not believed because he’s simply a puppet.

There is also a strong sense of humour running throughout. It’s especially true when Pinocchio is fighting vampires and says things like ‘I’ll kill you all’ only for his nose to grow. The facial expressions at this point are great. There’s also the fact he killed his cricket conscience the first time they met and the cricket has been haunting him as a ghost ever since. I also have a soft spot for the cryptic Rabbits of Potent. Oh, and a very nice use of ‘I am the walrus’.

Not to say that there isn’t emotion, there really is. Pinocchio feels he failed his father and his father issues do get quite the workout later on in the book. Pinocchio suffers self doubt and the attitude of the townspeople doesn’t help. All he wants to do is help them but they shun him. You can really feel for him which makes him a great protagonist.

The art is black and white and usually I prefer more colour, but here it works really well because it just fits with the story/folk tale nature of the book. The dark really works for the vampires and the nature of the story, a little bit darker than the Pinocchio we might be familiar with. The character designs themselves are really excellent. They are suitable cartoony and really interesting. Each character is drawn as a real individual and they have a lot of character in the designs themselves.

The town is drawn really rather detailed and there are some really nice touches with the houses, especially when Pinocchio goes back to visit his old home with Geppetto. The flashbacks are done in the form of sort of woodcut art and that evokes a simpler more whimsical time before it all went wrong. The art fits the tone perfectly. It’s by turns creepy and touching with action and drama along the way.

This first volume really sets the world up. We get the premise – Pinocchio is the chosen one whose nose can kill vampires by turning them to ash. He swears to destroy them. There are plenty of questions left – how is he the chosen one? Will he succeed in his quest to destroy the vampires? Will local girl Carlotta, his only ally in the town, ever get close to him? At the same time it’s a really strong story that is mostly resolved by the end.

If you don’t like too much gore in your horror, or would prefer a lighter horror, I recommend Pinocchio Vampire Slayer as it’s a really fun read and perfect for the season.

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