In The Lost Carnival, Haly’s Circus may be in trouble. A mysterious carnival has popped up right near their grounds, which is causing a disruption for business. What’s more, their star acrobat, Dick Grayson, may have gotten himself mixed up in an unexpected magical adventure.
There are many elements of The Lost Carnival that feel instantly relatable and help ground some of the more bizarre elements of the story. Michael Moreci writes Dick Grayson himself like a very normal teenager who happens to have grown up in a less-than-normal world. He argues with his parents and feels bad about it, he wants more out of life but feels shackled by responsibility. He’s a good kid who just loses his way every now and then. The characterization of Dick is very strong here, which helps to keep the story engaging. Readers will want to see Dick figure out this mystery and also reconnect with his parents in a meaningful way.
Grayson’s physicality is also spot-on in this book. While he’s not the high-flying badass of the mainstream comics, there’s a fluidity and grace to his movements, particularly in a few lovely sequences involving a ferris wheel. The bits of action that Dick gets to participate in are fun and interesting to look at, all without making it feel like this kid is unnaturally gifted. He just knows what he’s doing when he’s in his element and he’s daring enough to fake it the rest of the time. All of that comes through on the page, and the creative team definitely deserves applause for that particular balancing act. It feels so perfectly Dick Grayson, even as it tells an out-of-continuity story.
Illustrators Sas Mileage and Phil Hester do some interesting things with colors and tone, particularly when shifting between the carnival and the circus. The limited palette took a few pages to get used to, but it grew on me quite quickly, as did the varying shades and interesting shifts seen when characters from the two worlds interacted. It felt much like Dorothy crossing over to Oz for the first time when Dick entered the Lost Carnival.
Speaking of the carnival, the central mystery of the book revolves around figuring out what secret the carnival is hiding. Are they here to spread cheer or is there something sinister hidden behind their grand show? While the ins and outs of how some of the magic works comes across rather fuzzy, it’s still fun to see how wacky things get toward the book’s final act. There’s a lovely fairy tale vibe to the whole thing that greatly appealed to me when mixed with the coming-of-age elements in the story.
The dialogue is fun and snappy, but it never feels like it’s overwritten. All of the characters speak from places of genuine emotion, which again keeps things from feeling too “out there” in some of the weirder parts of the tale. Rather than sounding like a spoiled brat, Dick comes across like he’s feeling the wanderlust of a teenager, which is further compounded by the sheer impermanence of life in a traveling circus. It’s a great read on the character that should appeal to longtime fans.
Despite some of the muddier aspects of the magical elements, this is an exceptionally fun and wonderfully illustrated story, and another success story for DC Ink. It should appeal to fans new and old.
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