Seth T.'s Reviews > Sparks: An Urban Fairytale

Sparks by Lawrence Marvit
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Aug 20, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: comics
Read in January, 2000

Marvit's Sparks received an award from Friends of Lulu in 2000 for, I imagine, its portrayal of a quality female role. And whatever the specifics of the award, I'm sure Sparks merited it.

It never ceases to amaze me how little recognized the book is. The so-called urban faery-tale remains among that elite and fabled coalition of five-star comics—despite the fact that no one's ever heard of it. I've been singing its praises for seven years now and every last person who's read it on my recommendation has loved it. In that kind of tragic way it demands.

Sparks is heart-rending, all at once tragic and joyous and freeing and responsible. Lawrence Marvit's captivating and all-too-believable-except-for-the-robot-coming-to-life-bit tale of love, death, life, and astronomy is bound to make any who don't have the shell of a cockroach growing over his heart feel deeply for its characters.

Set in a once-upon-a-time kingdom resembling New York/Chicago/etc., Marvit develops a likable princess (with whom anyone who's ever felt lost can relate) with occasionally wicked parents and a knight of true nobility to attend her needs. Next to Jimmy Corrigan and Mister Blank, Sparks inhabits an Olympus of only the elite of comicdom. As gods among men, books like these are either those to which all the others aspire or else villainous reminders of how far from adequate the rest of comicdom truly is.

Josephine, the book's protagonist/damsel in distress, is utterly human. She's sad and tragic and naive and wobegotten. And entirely likable. Every time she is snubbed, mocked, ignored, or abused, I am almost compelled to reach for the nearest Sharpie (always good to keep many at hand at all times) and either draw devil horns and mustachio upon the offender or scratch their countenance from the book altogether. Sanity always draws me back with the recognition that without those other human faces, Josephine's story will not ring as true the next time I pick it up.

Josephine is one of those characters that you get to watch grow. She begins as timid wallflower and ultimate geek-girl (she's an auto-hound) and slowly musters courage at the prompting of some dubious friendships. But courage needs to be earned and her initial attempts at freedom from her fears are only as successful as any halfhearted endeavor can be. And so, she needs to grow through the experience of pain and love and rejection and abandonment and love and death and terror and love. And love. And it's wonderful and I rejoice in her character and its victories.

Of course, not everyone is going to adore Marvit's work. In looking for other reviews of the work awhile back, I ran across a review by someone who must be a bitter old sea hag (like the one from Popeye). Either that or someone with her own opinion. But I prefer to believe her the former—as I don't see how anyone operating anywhere on the legal-to-drive side of her seventh bottle of gin could reasonably come to like conclusions as she.
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Oh, now that I remember it. Sparks did have some minor problems that editing didn't catch—a repeated line here, a grammatical mistake there—all entirely forgivable because of the wealth of Story!
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