Waffleface, The Vampire Slayer: Pinocchio: Of Wood and Blood Parts 1 and 2 Review

EDITOR’S NOTE: This review is based on a review copy of Pinocchio: Of Wood and Blood Part 2 provided free of charge to Crisis On Infinite Midlives by pubisher Slave Labor Graphics and writer Van Jensen.

Pinocchio is a bad motherfucker.

Pinocchio: Of Wood and Blood is the concluding chapter of Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer, which Amanda and I came across completely by accident at San Diego Comic-Con in 2011 at the Slave Labor Graphics booth. We picked it up based purely on the title – how can you not give a book named Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer a try? If we’d seen a book titled Cinderella: Street Vigilante we’d have bought that too – and were delighted to find an action-packed, funny story about Pinocchio and his puppet crew hunting down vampires by telling lies (think along the lines of, “I will take no joy in staking your dead ass and dragging it screaming into the daylight”), which grows his nose and gives him a handy, on-demand wooden stake for bringing the stabby.

Pinocchio: Of Wood and Blood is the final chapter of writer Van Jensen’s and artist Dusty Higgins’s story, opening with Pinocchio having turned into a real boy (already making it a more satisfying story than A.I. Artificial Intelligence) and searching for his kidnapped love, Carlotta. The search brings Pinocchio and his puppet buddies from deserted islands to abandoned Romanian towns, via balloon and horse chases, to the castle of Vlad Tepes, and a confrontation with Dracula himself. And the journey leads Pinocchio to make sacrifice after sacrifice, from his hard-earned humanity, to his relationships, to eventually, much, much more.

At face value, there’s nothing really new going on under the hood of this story. A gang of irreverent, wisecracking vampire hunters going after Dracula isn’t something you can really even pretend is groundbreaking when the concept is at least as old as the opening of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer season five, if not the end of season one. But Jensen does an excellent job with those standard elements, starting with the simple humor in the story. These characters are fucking funny, and make the book a joy to read, even when the action dies down. Seeing things like Pinocchio muttering to the ghost of Jiminy Cricket riding on his shoulder whether you call a group of vampires a gaggle or a pod or a murder while being chased by a pack (I’ve decided that’s the correct term) of vampires, or a bunch of sentient kitchen implements arguing whether they should call the trivet “Trivet” or “Waffleface,” or Pinocchio saying, “You have flawless skin,” to a vampire to grow an handy stake from his face are just plain fun.

With that said, there is plenty of action to be had in this book, and most if it is inspired, matching the unique opportunities that a protagonist who can generate a weapon with a snarky line of bullshit brings. There’s a scene where Pinocchio circumvents a high wall by spinning a long enough line of horseshit that his nose grows to vault pole length, which is not only inventive, but which made me sad that no matter how gifted I might be as a liar on a given day, nothing on my body ever grows the way I tell people it does. The book is also packed with sequences from the Dracula story obligatory horse-drawn carriage chase, to simple vampire attacks, to a long and involved and truth thrilling battle between the crew and Dracula, ending in what, no bullshit, is one of the most chilling and satisfying takedowns of the big bad I’ve read in recent memory. I don’t want to give things away, but when Pinocchio spoke to Dracula, and his nose grew, I literally pumped my fist and said, “That’s right, motherfucker!” Sure, the concept of a puppet fighting Dracula is absurd, but Jansen plays the key character scenes with heart and emotion… all while dropping in solid action and good laugh lines (in my next drunken brawl, my battle cry will be “I am Waffleface!”) the whole time.

The art by Dusty Higgins is appropriate for a story of this type. His style tends to the cartoony, which is what you’d want for a story about a bunch of puppets and a ghost cricket attacking vampires. However, he amps up the realism and changes up his style when it counts, such as when Pinocchio and his puppet pals Punch, Columbina and Harlequin discover how they became living puppets; in Pinocchio’s flashback, the art grows somewhat more realistic and the linework more hazy to add weight to the situation. His panel layouts are clear, and his pacing is generally pretty solid… although the pole vault sequence, while cool, probably didn’t need four double-paged spreads to depict (which made it eight pages when I read on an e-reader, which really slows the story way down). All in all, it’s good art appropriate to the story; you’ll never see Higgins drawing Batman, but it’s right for this.

Pinocchio: Of Wood and Blood isn’t the most original story in the world, but it plays the standard tropes of a Scooby Gang Fights Vampires story about as well as you could hope for. It’s packed with laughs, action, and some serious heart and emotion. It’s damn good fun comics, and well worth a read. Or my name isn’t Waffleface.

Shit; still nothing’s growing.

Pinocchio: Of Wood and Blood Part 1 is available now; Part 2 drops September 11th.