Created by Melissa Jane Osborne and Veronica Fish, EMET Comics’ series The Wendy Project is a twisty, modern adaptation of the classic Peter Pan story. EMET Comics are comics created for women by women.
In Vol. 1, protagonist Wendy Davies is going through therapy after the apparent death of her younger brother Michael in a horrific car accident in which she and her other brother John survived. She insists, however, that Michael’s not dead but instead was spirited away by Pan himself.
Wendy narrates the story via a journal her therapist urges she uses as a coping mechanism. She attempts to dispose of the journal several times, as she is not prepared to face her trauma from the accident, but is mysteriously unsuccessful. Moreover, John has gone mute from the trauma. “He’s lucky,” Wendy writes. “He doesn’t have to deal with my parents.” She is constantly invalidated, and John is seemingly unsupportive until the end of this issue, when he welcomes her home from a violent misadventure with a warm surprise.
There is an interesting warping of Wendy’s reality around her trauma, blending what seems like fantasy with her coping mechanisms to avoid a complete meltdown. She sees characters from the Peter Pan story in her real life, even going so far as to think at one point Pan has come for her as well. Authority figures and classmates are both sometimes seen through a colorful fantasy lens.
Osborn’s story is an interesting take on the Peter Pan mythos, and a unique parallel for mental health and a trauma survivor’s struggles. With a modern version of the original story—and us readers just as unsure as Wendy if Pan is real or fictional and replacement for a painful memory—we are taken on a winding road right along with Wendy.
The story is beautifully brought to life with Veronica Fish’s art, and would not be the same without it. The illustrations are alluring and whimsical, as well as blank and depressing, exactly when and where they should be. The purposeful juxtaposition of color and blandness is incapable of being lost. Wendy is the only character that’s semi in-color (color is in her eyes and on her chest, and in her journal) unless she sees someone (or something) she feels validates her experience. Then, that person (or thing) becomes vibrant and full of life.
This coloring scheme directly parallels how many individuals feel when dealing with depression/trauma, and when their experiences are substantiated. It’s a beautiful nod to mental health. That it blends so well with the story, both on the surface (“Plain Jane” gets drawn into fantasy fairytale) and beneath, is masterful in its implementation. As a reader, I can easily point to pieces of this comic and say “Yes! That’s exactly how it feels when someone says they have experienced ‘X’ thing too!,” or, “Yes, trauma/depression feels numbing/blank/empty! This author gets it!”
I wonder if the story will continue warping to Neverland to save Michael as a unique twist on the story’s device of journeying into the afterlife—or if it will continue to show that Wendy is only, in fact, dealing with her grief creatively. I also hold minor concern over the not-yet-shown Tiger Lily, and hope that she’s left out completely of this retelling.
Overall, the nuance displayed in The Wendy Project is a rare gem I hope to read more of soon. The first issue is an example for other writers on how to subtly and gently address deep issues with finesse. I’m glad to have read it — even with the lack of PoC representation so far. I’d recommend it to fellow readers who have or are dealing with mental health or trauma survival — and, of course, to Peter Pan fans.
Ishki is a 29-year-old fulltime, two-Spirit Chahta mom, writer, game developer and subversive decolonizing home activist. She’s also a part-time painter and renaissance crafter. You can find her on Twitter @jamlamlaser and WordPress is www.jammylam.wordpress.comClick here for reuse options!
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