Comic Books

Review: 'Curses! Foiled Again' doesn't quite live up to Yolen's promise

Almost two years after the first volume of “Foiled,” Jane Yolen and Make Cavallaro finally return to Aliera Carstairs’ world in First Second’s “Curses! Foiled Again,” out this week at comic shops.

Curses Foiled AgainGreat title aside, it doesn’t seem like prolific YA author Yolen has gotten the hang of the graphic novel form. It’s much better paced than the original, since not as much needs to be set up, but Aliera suddenly has turned into an extremely disagreeable and thoroughly unlikable character. You pretty much hope the trolls get rid of her.

In the first book, Aliera discovered she’s the Defender of Faerie. From what still isn’t clear. It also must not be much of an impending threat because there doesn’t seem to be any rush for her to get up to speed on just what she’s supposed to do and how she can do it.

She does try to work out one problem with the help of her best friend and cousin, Caroline. Meanwhile, a troll disguised as human boy Avery is trying to impart some very important information, but Aliera will have none of it. She’s a total jerk to the kid, who just wants to help. And I can’t see any reason for it.

In this story, Aliera is trying to figure out what’s happening while keeping her grades up at school and, most importantly, working to make nationals in fencing. Avery is trying to tell her what she wants to know, but she just keeps yelling at him.

She gets kidnapped by trolls, escapes and later must fight their leader. She learns a useful new power and meets Baba Yaga (of Russian legend). And that’s about it.

After the promise of the first volume, I was really looking forward to seeing where Yolen and Cavallaro would take Aliera. But there’s too much yelling and not enough story in this one. There’s also a troublesome plot point in the climax, but maybe I’m overthinking it. But I don’t want to spoil it.

Cavallaro’s art continues to impress. His creature designs are great. And I love the use of color — black-and-white for the real world with bursts of color for the fairy creatures that drift around in it. It’s not a completely original idea, but he makes it pop. And the cover is a fantastic riff on the Frank Frazetta model of beefcake hero with sword aloft and scantily clad girl at his feet. (Don’t worry, everyone is fully clothed, as you saw in the photo.)

I just wish the story held up a bit better. I have no idea how many volumes they’re planning, but the fun premise and art will keep me anticipating the third volume. So that’s something.

Eric Henrickson is a Detroit News copy editor who has also been writing about comic books, video games and anime for The News for more than 10 years. His favorite bit of geek cred so far: appearing in an online "Star Trek" fan series.