It’s the week before Christmas, so it’s probably a good time to take a look at a brand-new graphic novel for the holidays. Firebrat: The True Meaning of Christmas is Mike Rosen’s latest graphic novel. For those of us who like a darker edge to our holiday festivities, Firebrat is a perfect addition, a tale of Christmas horror for all-ages (more or less).
Firebrat originally ran as a story at one of Rosen’s many webcomic sites, Guttersnipe. Though Firebrat uses many of the characters from Guttersnipe (and their descendants), you don’t need to have any knowledge of Guttersnipe to enjoy it. The story follows Becky Pilliwinks in a Polar Express-type situation, picked up for a train ride to the North Pole by Doodles the elf. After all, children who are too excited to sleep on Christmas Eve are taken by the, ahem, Arctic Express to be given their gifts directly by Santa!
But all isn’t quite what it seems, and Becky’s new friend Nate Sponge has a whole lot of questions. Questions like “Is Santa real?” and “Hey, if the North Pole is in the middle of the ocean, how can you take a train there?” But Becky’s got the power of having watched every animated Christmas special ever, and so she’s got faith.
I won’t continue further with the story in fear of spoiling it, but, well, Nate’s probably on to something. Especially since if he weren’t, the story would be about 20 pages long. And likewise, we wouldn’t get Rosen’s take on some of the more obscure Christmas traditions like the Zwarte Piet, the Yule Cat, Krampus and more. Though it might be a little dark, ultimately, the story is surprisingly hopeful and uplifting.
Rosen’s art is dynamically cartoony, and the brand new coloring from Liz and David Lillie of Vivid Publishing is utterly gorgeous. The hardback edition is a thing of beauty. It’s truly something that belongs on Christmas bookshelves everywhere. Vivid went all out with this edition, and the care Rosen and the Lillies took shows.
And finally, you’ll learn something from Firebrat, too. In addition to all of the looks at Christmas lore, when Nate says a firebrat is “like a silverfish,” it turns out he’s right!
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