Review: The Lost Carnival: A Dick Grayson Graphic Novel

Lost Carnival

Review: The Lost Carnival:  A Dick Grayson Graphic Novel

[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]

Writer: Michael Moreci

Artist: Sas Milledge with Phil Hester

Letters: Steve Wands

Colors: David Calderon

 

Reviewed by: Carl Bryan

 

Summary

A perilous road awaits…And I can see the shape of your most fascinating future.  But just know….there is a knight looming over your days to come.” – Fortune Teller at the Lost Carnival to Dick Grayson.

Before Batman trained him to be Robin, Dick Grayson discovered the power of young love–and its staggering costs–at the dangerous, magical, and utterly irresistible Lost Carnival.
Haly’s traveling circus no longer has the allure of its glamorous past, but it still has one main attraction: the Flying Graysons, a family of trapeze artists starring a teenage Dick Grayson. The only problem is that Dick loathes spending his summers performing tired routines for a dwindling crowd.
 
When the Lost Carnival, a wild and enchanting new attraction, opens nearby and threatens to pull Haly’s remaining customers, Dick is among those drawn to its magical nighttime glow. But there are forces ancient and dangerous at work at the Lost Carnival, and when Dick meets the mysterious Luciana and her carnival workers–each stranger than the last–he may be too mesmerized to recognize the danger ahead. Beneath the carnival’s dazzling fireworks, Dick must decide who he is and who he wants to be–choosing between loyalty to his family history and a glittering future with new friends and romance.
Writer Michael Moreci and artist Sas Milledge redefine Dick Grayson in The Lost Carnival, a young adult graphic novel exploring the power and magic of young love.
 

Positives

Michael Moreci contributes to the history of The Flying Graysons and more specifically to Dick Grayson pre-Robin years.  

One part Shakespeare and One part Twilight Zone, the Lost Carnival sets up a clash between the Haly Circus and the Lost Carnival.  Rivals for local business, and cut from the same cloth, but immediately in conflict with not only each other but the local Wyoming townies.

The beauty in this book is that it is provides a glimpse into Dick’s life with his parents.  Too often we as Robin fans were plunged into the loss of his parents.  However, this prequel sets up an anxious Dick who is a bit of a rabble rouser to the Haly Circus.  His relationship with his parents is both one of love, but also of wanting to break free.  You can tell this Robin wants to fly, but he has been given the tools to do so by some pretty cool parents!  

He wants to break free of the “job” that his parents have secured as trapeze performers and Dick wants to push the limits of the choreographed routines.  The frustration he experiences leads him to go to a local party with Willow, another Circus performer.  

And that is where we encounter Shakespearean conflict with the Circus versus The Lost Carnival workers versus “Townies”.  And as Willow puts it “Townies tend to like us Circus people when we are on stage.  Not when we are inserting ourselves into their lives.”  

This is also when we meet Luciana, the Juliet to Dick’s Romeo.  Moreci’s influences in this novel are wide range.  From the usual “fish out of water” story formula to star crossed lovers, and then the magic and tragedy worthy of any romance novel, Moreci blends all of this using the backdrop of a teenager who loves his parents but is also trying to find his way in the world.

While Dick and Luciano take center stage, Willow’s role as Dick’s best friend/advisor is crucial in this tale.  Quinn, Luciano’s disfigured protector, blends well with this foursome as they take on both natural and supernatural threats.

I do question whether I would read this book if Dick Grayson’s name was not attached to the title.  I do compare this story to an old comic book tale that was part of Gold Key comics where a man goes through a foggy road to discover a town that contains what will eventually be his future wife.  After a long courtship, and the day of the wedding, the fog is not there anymore and the man discovers that the town had always been dead and that his fiancee and the town inhabitants were ghosts.  We all get our inspiration from somewhere, but there were attributes to this story that reminded me of some Twilight Zone stories that were part of comics in the 1970s.

Again, Moreci has taken a literary blender to this Dick Grayson prequel and created something interesting.  But if you are well read, you see some of his influences right away.  That doesn’t detract as much as it celebrates that Moreci knows his literature and creates a good fit in the genre of the Bat Family.

I could see myself teaching a comparative literature class using this book.  Moreci designed it for possibly a middle school or high school audience, and it lends itself to a great class discussion due to the pacing, chapter breaks, and content.

 

Positives (Artwork)  

Sas Milledge and Phil Hester provide solid penciling and an unusual way to convey the story.  I am reminded of a Disney cruise where you enter the Animator’s Palate and it is all black and white and by the end of the meal, you have rich colors all around the restaurant.

The same goes here in that the coloring provides a story foreshadowing that helps with the writing. The colors remind me of an old finger painting method, but again, it works in this medium.  

Negatives

If you are not an experienced reader, you will enjoy this story from the beginning.  If you do have some pages under your belt, you may find yourself making some comparisons to other comics, other literary devices, and most definitely Shakespeare.

Verdict

Okay… I’m really torn in that this is a fresh look into what life was like prior to the ward relationship to Bruce Wayne.  As refreshing as the “knight” that overlooks Dick for the rest of his life, I really like seeing Dick (Not Ric!!!) and his parents.  Sigh….

So whatever blender that Morecci used and whatever his influences are, I appreciated his adding his twists to Dick’s history!  

 

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Carl Bryan

Doc B is a college physical education instructor that has coached numerous sports on the rec, club, and collegiate level. He has a wonderful wife, two awesome kids, and remembers when Kryptonite came in a lot of different forms. He also has learned not to utter "Mxyzptlk" backwards!