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Abadazad: The Road to Inconceivable - Book #1 (Abadazad) by J.M. DeMatteis
Review by Drew Bittner
Hyperion Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 142310062x
Date: 01 June, 2006 List Price $9.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Mrs. Vaughn tells Kate that Abadazad is real, and that the magic land's greatest enemy -- the Lanky Man -- has kidnapped Matt for his own sinister purposes. Kate scoffs and rejects her offer of help, only to find Mrs. Vaughn gone soon after. But the old woman has offered her a priceless opportunity: a way to Abadazad itself. If Kate is brave and pure of heart, she just might have a chance to get Matt home safe.

Of course, she'll have to survive the fantastic perils of Abadazad first and persuade the peerless Queen Ija, Professor Headstrong and many others to help her quest. But then again, that's what spunky young heroines do, isn't it?

DeMatteis and Ploog tap into something primal with Abadazad, conjuring an entire mythology of the fantastic. Their world is fit to stand alongside Baum's Oz and Carroll's Wonderland, evoking the essence of both places without imitating either. They also make interesting comparisons between the "fictional" Abadazad and the world Kate discovers after her magical journey. Some of the differences are discussed frankly as a result of the times in which Little Martha lived, which may be eye-opening to younger readers but comes across as inspired writing by DeMatteis.

Kate is a terrific character, describing her adventures in the form of a magical, self-correcting diary, with a large number of breathtaking illustrations by Ploog (some of them adapted from the original comic) to highlight key sections. She is overwhelmed with guilt and anger, both at herself and at her mother (whom she dubs "Frantic Frances"), acting out and on the verge of failing school, but her devotion to her brother shines through; it is perhaps the essential expression of her ability to love and sacrifice for another, which makes her a true heroine.

Likewise, the diverse characters -- including a rejuvenated Little Martha -- are complex, fully-realized and far deeper than a "children's book" might suggest. There are currents and cross-currents at work, but little that should be troubling to young readers (or their parents). This first volume, Abadazad: The Road to Inconceivable, incorporates the story of the first two issues of the comic, following Kate from losing Matt to her encounter with the real inhabitants of Abadazad. Book 2, Abadazad: The Dream Thief, is already on sale, with a third volume on the way.

The writing and artwork go hand-in-hand. DeMatteis and Ploog are both longtime comic veterans, yet this book represents a departure from their customary work; DeMatteis's career is mostly in superhero comics at DC and Marvel, while Ploog made a name for himself in horror comics and Hollywood. That they're writing a children's book may come as a surprise, but the quality of their work is surpassing. Nick Bell's colors, likewise, give Ploog's art an astounding palette, from the murky colors predominant in Kate's home and "real" world to the surreal brightness of Abadazad itself.

Not many novels are notable for their design, but Hyperion has done a wonderful job on this book. Who notices typography? And yet, this book is conceptually brilliant, framing the work of DeMatteis and Ploog exceptionally, making a gestalt that is more than the sum of the parts. The art team on this series -- Roberta Pressel, Debbie Lofaso and Nisha Panchal -- deserves applause.

Any reader partial to the works of Baum, Carroll, Barrie and others like them will treasure Abadazad; any parent may discover these books open up an entirely new world to share with their children. In any case, this book is strongly recommended. For more information, visit their website.

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