Baba Yaga’s Assistant

Author: Marika McCoola

Artist: Emily Carroll

Type: Fiction, comic

Published: 2015

I read it: June 2018

baba yaga's assistant

Baba Yaga is a monster who could use more exposure. Among the generic categories, such as vampire, werewolf, mummy, and ghost, “witch” definitely has a spot. But there aren’t many named witches. The ones I call to mind fastest are referred to collectively (see The Witches).

And Baba Yaga is super cool. She’s classic crone (shades of Hansel and Gretel’s nemesis are certainly there) but with a sentient house that walks around on chicken legs. The highlight of McCoola and Carroll’s story is making the house into a distinct character who can be flattered and cajoled.

The bigger story involves a teenage girl mourning the death of her mother in the past, and her grandmother more recently. She recall’s grandma’s stories of Baba Yaga and accepts them as real, as indeed they are in the context of the book. It’s unclear why she answers an ad to be Baba Yaga’s assistant, given the dirty nature of the job. Other than that she’s mad at her dad for dating… but perhaps that’s reason enough. Still, I felt that the girl’s role as both enemy of and ally to Baba Yaga confused the motives of both characters. What is the purpose of the whole strange adventure?

If anything, I wanted a more deliberate and drawn out process of learning Baba Yaga’s mischievous ways. We get a light story-within-a-story aspect of the girl using her knowledge of fairy tales to pass certain tests. But the girl is already in a fairy tale world, so I’m not sure that the extra layer is necessary. Perhaps if the story was simply longer, then the multiple angles could all breathe. As it stands, the book is a somewhat awkward length.

Overall, it’s a fine introduction to the character, and Emily Carroll is entirely in her element (there’s even a chapter title that includes the phrase Through the Woods). But I still think a longer comic would be better. Or just do away with the young protagonist’s current grief and have her be a morally questionable person who falls in with the devious Baba Yaga. The witch does eat children, after all. Her assistant needs a mean streak.

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